Frances Del Monte was sitting on the sofa in the waiting area, holding a mug of coffee, tears streaming down her cheeks, when Genevieve and Miguel unlocked the salon door and walked in. Liam was beside her with his arm wrapped comfortingly around her shoulders, trying to console, but to no avail.
“Why didn’t he tell me, Irish? That’s what I don’t understand. He usually tells me everything.” Fran began sobbing again.
“Genevieve, would you mind closing the blinds on the door so people think we’re closed.” He looked back at Fran. “There, there Franny. We’ll sort this out.”
Genevieve did as she was told, while Miguel walked to the staff room to get a drink of water. Really, he just wanted to get out of the way. He disliked seeing people upset. It made him uncomfortable. Genevieve remained with Liam and Fran.
Suddenly Fran brightened and straightened up.
“Irish, I want to go home.” She glanced over at Genevieve. “You can come too, G.”
Genevieve looked at Liam, who looked bewildered.
“What purpose would that serve, Fran? It’ll just make Mitch feel ganged up on. We have to come up with a better plan if we’re going to work this out.”
Fran looked dejected. Her shoulders drooped again and her eyes began to well up with tears. Then Genevieve piped in.
“I have a solution.”
* * * * * *
Later that night, Liam took his usual seat in the back corner of The Foxy Lady. Savannah Porsche was dancing when he arrived, which made him slightly uncomfortable. He hadn’t been back to the club since their tryst the night of the big showdown. Was she expecting him to see her after tonight’s show, to meet her backstage? He wasn’t sure he was prepared to deal with the rejection she was sure to feel, but he also wasn’t prepared to continue seeing her. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Savannah. She was a decent person, and beautiful. There was really no reason in the world he shouldn’t be interested in her, or at least no apparent reason. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but something didn’t feel right. He had moved out of his womanizing phase long ago, and knew he was ready, after all these years, to let that special person into his life. Someone to replicate the feeling of love he’d had years ago with Simony Chiavary, his first love, his only true love. Liam didn’t know why he felt ready for more, or what exactly it was he was looking for, but being around Savannah, sweet as she was, didn’t fill him with what he wanted to feel. The sex, he admitted, had been good. She knew how to pleasure a man, and he hoped he hadn’t lost his touch either, even though it had been a while, but he just wasn’t interested in her.
Savannah shimmied down the onstage pole, wearing only a thong, as tassels danced upon her ripe nipples. Maybe I should rethink things, he thought, and for a quick flash was tempted. The situation was perfect. He came to The Foxy Lady on a regular basis. It could be that simple, a weekly or twice weekly rendezvous, nothing more. What harm was there in having a little fun, for god sakes? But he’d done that before and it had brought him nothing but heartache. Too many damaged women, too many ruined marriages, somebody always got hurt. Had he turned a new moral leaf in love and lust, just as he had with his life choices of leaving the criminal life behind? Still, he could feel the aching bulge in his pants rise, the desire.
At that very moment, Genevieve arrived and sat down beside him.
“Hi.” She smiled, and Liam felt all at once comfortable and at home. The ache in his groin subsided, but his desire hadn’t left, just somehow shifted. Within seconds Della appeared at the table.
“What are you doing sitting down on the job, missy? Aren’t you due to go on next?”
Della, who had a heart of gold, now towered condescendingly above young Genevieve, her hand on her hip, tray balanced with the other. She glared down at her.
“Della, relax,” Genevieve said, not the least bit phased. “I took the night off. I’m here with Irish on another job; an assignment I’d guess you’d call it.” Genevieve reached over and smiling, touched Liam’s hand. Della just stood there with her mouth hanging open.
“Della, it’s okay,” Liam said. “I asked G for assistance with something. It’s no biggie. I just need the help of someone in-the-know around here.”
Della looked deflated. “Well, I’m in the know, sugar. Don’t I count?”
“Of course you do, Della, and you’ll find out what’s going on soon enough, promise. In fact, when you get a break, come and join us. We’ll fill you in.”
As always, Liam was inclusive of those who he considered dependable, and who he cared about. He knew Della was both.
“So, can you bring lady G here a Highball, and me my usual, Ginger on the rocks?”
“You got it, sugar.” Della winked at Liam, and glared again at Genevieve, but less icy this time. She really just had to show who was boss, and that was fine with Genevieve.
“So, G, is everything ready to roll?” Liam looked into her big, brown eyes and for a moment lost himself. He knew she replied because he saw her lips moving, but the words did not compute, like they were floating in a fine mist around his brain. He stared into her eyes and she continued to gaze back into his, as if waiting for a reply.
“Sorry, G, what did you say?”
“Yes, Irish,” she laughed out loud. “Ready to roll.”
The music changed and a new dancer appeared. Mindy the Maverick, dressed in a bulky array of colored feathers, including a boa and headdress, suggestively peeled off one layer at a time as she strode provocatively around the stage. The audience, mostly regulars, knew the outcome, so they cheered and whistled loudly as each item hit the floor, every discard baring a little more flesh. By the time the music would end, they knew that Mindy Maverick would be lying completely naked upon the stage, legs spread to the imposing center spotlight.
“Hey Irish, hon, how ya doin’ tonight?” Savannah Porsche slithered into the seat beside Liam and nuzzled up close. She had no scruples and was determined to hone in on Liam like he was her prize. Completely ignoring Genevieve, she placed her hand on his thigh and began rubbing it rather erotically.
“I’ve missed you around here, Irish. Care to pick up where we left off?”
Genevieve smiled to herself. Then, looking squarely into her eyes, she reached over and gently but firmly lifted Savannah’s hand off of Liam’s leg.
“Excuse us, Savannah. Irish and I were just in the middle of an important business discussion. When we’re finished, and if he so desires, he’ll come and find you. For now, do you mind?” Genevieve gestured with her eyes the exit doors, then back to Savannah. Without knowing why, Liam lifted his arm and placed it around Genevieve’s shoulders, scooting his body closer to hers. She kept her eyes evenly on Savannah’s, but inside a flutter of nerves stirred in her belly. Savannah, not sure how to react, stood up indignantly.
“Well, I can certainly smell a ho if I’m near one, Ms. G, and you stink. If you want him, you can have him. He ain’t worth it, believe me.” Liam turned beet red, but Genevieve didn’t notice. She was too busy watching Savannah storm off, savoring the moment. In a way she felt badly. She had nothing against Savannah, or at least never had, but she resented the way she had moved in on their privacy like a know-it-all, making a point of claiming possession of Irish. The nerve! Genevieve was well aware that they’d had their night, but it didn’t mean she owned him.
Della arrived with their drinks, and trying not to stare, placed them on the table on top of two cocktail napkins she had set down. Suddenly, Genevieve was aware that Liam’s arm was still around her shoulders, and wondered what Della was thinking. Liam seemed not to notice.
“Well, if you two have all that you need, I’ll just leave you alone.” She continued to stare at them, and Liam and Genevieve stared back. “My break’s at eleven thirty. Don’t go away. I’ll be back then.” With that, Della turned on her heels and walked back to the bar.
Liam and Genevieve sat there together for a couple of minutes, until the music for the next act flooded the silence.
“Irish,” Genevieve said, glancing up at him with dark, inquisitive eyes. “You weren’t using me to get rid of Savannah, were you?”
Liam looked down, and for a moment remained very quiet. The club was filled with the usual cacophony; late night clamor of clinking glasses, raucous laughter, jovial shouting, and music, but the space surrounding the two of them at Liam’s corner table was one of peaceful contentment. Silence hung in suspended anticipation. Then he turned to Genevieve. He did not remove his arm from around her shoulder, but gently squeezed as he said,
“I would never use you, G.”
Before he knew it they were lip-locked in a rapturous embrace, and for the first time in many years, Liam Irish felt passionate heat again, not just in his loins, but in his heart.