Home > Beautiful Bombshell (Beautiful Bastard #2.5)

Beautiful Bombshell (Beautiful Bastard #2.5)
Author: Christina Lauren

ONE


Bennett Ryan


“The smartest thing I’ve ever done was recruiting Max Stella to help plan your bachelor party.”

I looked over at my brother, Henry, after he practically sang this. He was leaning back in his plush leather chair, fresh vodka gimlet in hand, recently returned from a private “session” in a mysterious backroom location, and wearing the biggest grin I think I’d ever seen. He wasn’t looking at me when he spoke; he was watching three beautiful women onstage dance and strip to a slow, pulsing rhythm. “Gotta remember that next time,” he murmured, bringing the glass to his lips.

“I plan on only having the one,” I said.

“Well.” Will Sumner, Max’s best friend and business partner, leaned forward to catch Henry’s eye. “You, however, might end up in need of a second bachelor party if the current wife finds out about the professional dancer activities just now. From the looks of this place, they don’t just do the average lap wiggle around here.”

With a dismissive wave of his hand, Henry said, “It really was only a lap dance.” And then he smiled at me, winking. “Albeit a very good lap dance.”

“Happy ending?” I asked, teasing but mildly revolted.

Henry shook his head with a laugh and took another sip of his drink. “Not that good, Ben.”

I exhaled, relieved. I knew my brother well enough to know that he would never cheat on his wife, Mina, but he was still far more of the “what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her” ethos than I ever would be.

Although Chloe and I were getting married in June, the only weekend Max, Henry, Will, and I could all get away together for my bachelor party was the second weekend in February. We’d expected there to be some serious bribing for the women to agree to let us head to Vegas for a guy’s weekend over Valentine’s Day, but as usual they’d surprised us: they’d barely blinked, and simply planned a weekend trip to the Catskills together instead.

Max had chosen a high-end club to kick off the weekend of ensured debauchery. This place certainly wasn’t something we would have stumbled upon via an online search or a stroll down the Las Vegas Strip. To be honest, Black Heart didn’t look like much from the outside. It was buried in an innocuous office building a couple blocks off the heavy traffic of Las Vegas Boulevard. But inside—past three locked doors and two bouncers roughly the size of my apartment in New York, then deeper into the dark belly of the building—the club was posh, and positively vibrating with sex.

The enormous main room was spotted with small raised platforms, each one topped with a dancer wearing sparkling, silver lingerie. There were four black marble bars, one in every corner, and each specializing in a different type of drink. Henry and I had indulged in the vodka bar, also grabbing some caviar, gravlax, and blinis. Max and Will had made a beeline for the scotch. The other two bars offered an assortment of wine, or cordials.

The furniture was plush, dark leather. It was unbelievably soft, and each chair was large enough for two . . . in case any of us accepted the offers for a dance out on the main floor. Servers wearing anything from latex bikinis to nothing at all carried trays with drinks. Our hostess, Gia, had started the night in a lacy red chemise and panties with some elaborate jewelry in her hair, ears, and around her neck, but seemed to be removing something each time she checked on us.

I wasn’t a regular at this type of establishment, but even I knew this was no run-of-the-mill strip club. It was pretty fucking impressive.

“The question,” Henry said, interrupting my thoughts, “is when is the groom-to-be getting his lap dance?”

Around me, the others all responded with various words of encouragement, but I was already shaking my head. “I’m going to pass. Lap dances aren’t really my thing.”

“How is an unfamiliar and extremely hot woman dancing on your lap not your thing?” Henry asked, eyes wide with disbelief. My brother and I hadn’t ever visited a club of this sort in any of our business travels. I think I was as surprised to learn of his enthusiasm for them as he was to learn of my aversion. “Are you warm-blooded?”

I nodded. “Very. I think that’s why I don’t like them.”

“Bollocks,” Max said, putting his drink down on the table and waving across the room to someone in the far, dark corner. “This is the first night of your stag weekend, and a lappy is a requisite.”

“You may all be surprised to hear that I’m with Bennett on this one,” Will said. “Lap dances from strangers are pretty awful. Where do you put your hands? Where do you look? It’s not the same as being with a lover—it feels too impersonal.”

While Henry insisted that Will had obviously never had a good lap dance, Max stood to speak to a man who seemed to have materialized out of thin air at the side of our table. He was shorter than Max—which wasn’t uncommon—and graying at his temples. He had a face and eyes that carried the kind of calm that told me he’d done a lot, and seen even more. His suit was dark and impeccable, his lips pressed together in a thin line. I registered that this must be the infamous Johnny French, whom Max had mentioned on our flight in.

Although I’d assumed they were talking about making arrangements for me to get a dance, I watched as Johnny murmured something and Max turned to stare at the wall, his face tight. I could count on one hand the number of times I’d ever seen Max look anything but relaxed, and I leaned forward, straining to understand what was happening. Henry and Will remained oblivious, having returned their attention to the now-naked dancers on the stage. Finally, Max’s shoulders relaxed as if he had come to some kind of conclusion, and he smiled at Johnny, muttering, “Thanks, mate.”

With a pat to Max’s shoulder, Johnny turned and left us. Max returned to his seat, reaching for his drink. I lifted my chin toward the doorway Johnny had stepped through, behind a black curtain. “What was all that about?”

“That,” said Max, “was about the room that is being prepared for you.”

“For me?” I pressed my hand to my chest, shaking my head. “Again, Max, I’m going to pass.”

“The fuck you are.”

“You’re serious.”

“You’re bloody right I am. He told me you’re to head down that hall”—Max pointed to a different doorway than the one through which Johnny had disappeared—“and head to Neptune.”

I groaned, leaning back in my chair. Although this club seemed like the best of its kind in town—or anywhere for that matter—on a list of things I wanted to do tonight, getting a lap dance from some random Vegas dancer ranked barely above eating bad sushi and getting violently ill.

“Just walk down the hall like a fucking bloke and get your knob rubbed by some girl dancing on you.” Max stared at me, his eyes narrowed. “Are you taking the piss with this whingey shite? It’s your fucking stag weekend. Act like the man you used to be.”

I studied him, wondering why he seemed so firmly planted in his own chair while he encouraged me to leave mine. “Did Johnny give you a room to visit as well? Aren’t you getting a lap dance?”

He laughed, tipping his scotch to his lips and mumbling, “It’s a lap dance, Ben. Not a fucking trip to the dentist.”

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