January 10, 2015
Title: New Drink Specials
Author: Raine O’Tierney
Pairing: Bailey and Jem from Under the Table
The entire club was dead.
Miss Rye Fontaine wasn’t one for slow—much less dead. Dead meant no patrons, no lonely souls filling the booths and drinking her liquor. Her boys looked bored. Listless. More than that, they looked like they were getting paid to do nothing.
She narrowed heavily made-up lids over gray-blue eyes.
“You’re going to get wrinkles if you frown like that,” Solstice blew maroon bangs out of her face and grinned, knowing she could get away with smart-talking the boss.
Miss Rye patted her assistant’s shoulder. “Thank god you work for college credit, Sol. Otherwise, after a drought like this I might have to let ya go.”
Solstice just laughed.
“And you’re wrong about the wrinkles. I’m never gonna age.”
For a moment Miss Rye stared at the heavy oak door, willing some timid housewife to walk through, eager for the companionship of a handsome man for hire. When her glare didn’t summon a patron, Miss Rye demanded to the room at large:
“Where in the hell is everyone?”
Her accented voice echoed back to her.
Only three boys were actually scheduled to work the floor that afternoon: Nicky, who lay in a booth with his feet up on the back, Rellen working on his thesis in the corner, and Callum—Under the Table’s number one host, and her secret boyfriend—the only one actually making her money. He cost her twice as much as the other guys when he was on the clock but at least he was working. He held his work cell and texted with his main patrons to make sure they knew he was “thinking about them.” Two more of her boys were on Outsides, Brook and Leon; they’d report in later that evening. The rest were doing whatever it was they did when they weren’t on the clock. She’d never been one to care.
“We knew when we started opening for lunch that it would be a gamble,” Tyrone, the floor manager, walked up behind Solstice. “It’s going to take some time for our patrons to get used to it.”
Miss Rye’s eyes narrowed further. She was not widely known for her patience. “Well, then you guys need to go out and make this less of a gamble and more of a sure thing.”
“And how do you propose we do that?”
“Do like they do in Japan, Ty. Go out on the street and promote. We have food. And liquor. And handsome men waitin’ to listen to a woman’s every inane thought.”
“You want us to solicit?”
“You make it sound like I run a brothel, you know I shut that down.” Her voice rose as she spoke. “I want ya’ll to go act like sexy sandwich board guys. If the ladies aren’t comin’ in on their own, go bring them in. Drag ’em in by the hair if you gotta.”
“So not soliciting. Kidnapping?” Solstice snorted.
Rellen had looked up from his research and Nicky’s feet twitched on the back of the booth. Callum ignored her, focused on his texting.
She cleared her throat and smirked. “All of you handsome boys, listen on up. You’ve got an hour. Bring back at least one patron each and you can keep your jobs.”
That got everyone’s attention. Rellen’s mechanical pencil clattered to the table and Nicky pulled himself all the way into a standing position. Even Callum looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
“Clock’s tickin’, boys,” she said, pointing one painted nail at the timepiece over the bar.
“Should I go too?”
It was Jem, her bartender. Most nights he poured the most delicious drinks for Under the Table—but once a week he worked in tandem with one of her top selling hosts, Bailey, who was at that moment sitting at the end of the bar. There were rows of empty glasses spread out in front of him.
If they hadn’t worn her down on the issue, Miss Rye never would have let Jem host. Her bartender was too timid and his drinks were too damn good. But a woman could only take so much of the mournful looks, before she just had to give. Plus he’d proved himself in a pinch one night and made her a ton of money. Puppy dog eyes alone didn’t pay the electric bill.
“I need you here to pour,” she replied sweetly.
“But…no one is here.”
“A patron could walk in any minute and without a bartender, what would we do?”
“I’m here,” Bailey said after a moment’s delay. There was a slight slur to his voice.
For the last two hours, Jem had been experimenting with new cocktails, trying to develop a new, exciting flavor, and Bailey—who was not on the clock—had been sampling the wares. Thumbs up, thumbs down.
“You aren’t scheduled,” Miss Rye said firmly.
It was funny, really. Bailey was paid to drink with women every single night—but in all the time he’d been in her employ (and he’d been around from the beginning), Miss Rye could not remember ever seeing him really drunk. His bleary-eyed look was amusing.
“How much has he had to drink?” she asked Jem.
“I’m fine,” Bailey insisted. “Put me in, Coach. I can walk the tightrope.”
“Um,” Jem flushed. “Well, he was just taking sips, but then I made the poison apple and—”
“Delicious,” Bailey insisted. “Y’know what, lover? Hit me again.”
Without missing a beat, Jem reached for a glass.
“Miss Rye,” Bailey said. “Since you need patrons, tell you what. I’ll pay you to book the private room.”
She looked at him uncertainly.
“A round of poison apples, your finest host, and the private room…”
“The hosts are—”
“I can do it!” Jem agreed emphatically, his smile warm.
Taking a deep, controlling breath, Miss Rye said, “You do realize that if I catch y’all doin’ in there what I think y’all are gonna be doin’ in there, there’s gonna be consequences, right?”
Jem nodded earnestly and Bailey shrugged.
“And I’m not giving you a discount just because you work here. You’ll either pay for the room outright or work tonight off the clock.” And then judging the state of him, she decided. “Or tomorrow, off clock.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Bailey looked over at the bar where his boyfriend was blushing furiously.
“You didn’t have to rent the private room,” Jem insisted, as he let the door click quietly closed behind him. Inside was a large maroon couch, big enough, at least, for six, pressed up against the wall, and a round table, plus a small wet bar and a television. The lighting was low, intimate. It was nice.
“I know,” Bailey agreed. “Except you wanted to go out and drum up business and I’m not on the clock. What if she’d said yes? You’d be out there flirting with women and trying to get them into the club. Couldn’t have that.”
“You’re so jealous.”
“Yup,” Bailey agreed shamelessly. “Now get over here and sit in my lap.”
Jem knew he should have a little decorum. If Miss Rye caught them—and she was sure to catch them—they were going to get it. But Bailey’s alcohol-flushed cheeks and come and get it smile were so gorgeous that Jem couldn’t resist. He walked over to where his boyfriend sat on the couch and allowed himself to be pulled into Bailey’s lap. Warm arms wrapped around Jem’s waist and Jem leaned forward into a kiss.
“The poison apple is making you bold.”
“You’re making me bold, kid.”
They did this sometimes for their patrons—well, a variation of it. Touched each other and kissed for the fantasy and entertainment of onlookers. But they’d agreed that when they did it for the club, there would always be an element of play to it. (Ha! As if Jem could play pretend where Bailey was concerned…) Now, completely alone, Bailey’s lips on his, Jem melted into Bailey and there was only the two of them, only their mingling breath, only their hearts thudding in time, only their hands feeling up under each other’s clothing, only the taste of poison apple on Bailey’s lips.
“Let’s break her rules, Jem.” Bailey insisted, nipping playfully at Jem’s neck.
He’d have hickeys. It didn’t matter. He didn’t care. All he could do was groan.
“I want you.”
Jem nodded dumbly in agreement.
“Jem, honey, I need ya to—” Pour. The word caught behind pursed lips as Miss Rye stopped just within the door of the private room. Her bartender was underneath her number two host, the latter out cold, though from drink or post-orgasm, she couldn’t tell. She took a deep, steadying breath. “I should fire y’all both, y’know that, right?”
Jem nodded dumbly, obviously trapped under Bailey’s weight.
She was too nice. She was too damned nice. It had always been a fault of hers. Plus, there were patrons waiting on drinks.
“Need me to shove him off of ya?” she asked.
Jem shrugged as best he could.
“Let me put it to you this way. If I don’t shove him off of ya, are you going to be behind the bar in three minutes like I want you to be?”
Jem considered this for a moment too long and Miss Rye, on a heavy exhalation of breath, walked over to Bailey, got her hands up under his naked torso and rolled him. He fell away from Jem, muttering and smacking awake.
“You,” she said to Bailey as he groggily opened his eyes, “are workin’ a double tomorrow. Without pay. What do you have to say to that?”
Bailey’s lips quirked and his lids fluttered closed as Jem scurried off the couch. “Worth it.”
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