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You’d always wanted to own a bakery. A warm, opening little cafe, a kind staff, regulars. Maybe a bookstore. You even took business classes. Thousands of dollars.
And here you were, in the heart of L.A, loud electronic music pounding through the club speakers. EXIT was the most successful thing you’d ever done. Some people did call it a bakery, but not for the right reasons.
You laughed. Puffs of smoke wafted through the air. Alcohol, California low-lifes, and hot blondes mingled with upper-class billionaires and men over 40. What a magical place. Here, everyone was the same.
The view from your office was glorious. Whiskey in hand, you looked out through the glass wall that faced the dance floor and lounge. Sparkling grey tile glittered, flattering the stringy, white chandler that hung from the tall ceiling. Every blue-suede seat was filled, and the raised dance floor was packed. Nearly every bar seat was filled with a drunk. The second story landing had a few souls on it, glasses in hands, heads bobbing to the music that thrummed around the room. When EXIT was empty, it had wonderful acoustics. Perhaps the vacant space could’ve served as something more… pure. Like a small community theatre or children’s library. Pity.
A knock on your door startled you out of your thoughts. You sauntered across your office. It was very open, with a living room type space in the center. The floor there was deeper than the rest of the room, which you’d always thought was an interesting architecture choice. You stepped past the bookshelves, the windows facing the city, and a quaint fireplace. Another knock on the door. You signed, the precipitation from your glass making your hand cold. You wiped off the moisture on your blouse before opening the door.
One of your bouncers stood at the door, phone in hand, “Ms. l/n, there’s a dancer that’s been injured. She wanted me to ask if you could phone an ambulance.”
“By “you”, she means YOU, yes?”
“I think so…” He seemed uncomfortable.
“How badly is she injured.” It was more of a statement than a question. You tried to avoid that sort of tone. It’s the only way a woman could do what you did.
“A broken ankle, I think.”
“You sure do a lot of that, don’t you,” you mumbled. “Yes, please phone an ambulance. Tell them no sirens. I’ll walk down with you.”
He nodded, dialing 911. He shouted into his phone, the music still mind-numblingly loud. That is, however, how you liked it. Everyone here ought to be numb. Come to think of it, you didn’t even know what was playing. Some bass-heavy dance song that had just about everyone moving. Sort of magical.
Despite the song, people’s attention turned to you as you left the second landing and moved to the first floor. Your bouncer had put his phone away, and was waving away people who looked like they wanted to approach you. You could understand. You were a young, barely 20-something female entrepreneur who was currently wearing the tightest leather pants anyone had every seen. Paired with matching mauve ankle-strap stilettos and button up blouse, you might as well have been a walking Oscar award.
The fresh air as you pushed open the glass doors was absorbing. You breathed in, closing your eyes for a moment. Your injured dancer was sitting on the sidewalk clutching her ankle. You rolled your eyes.
“You brought her out front? You’re kidding me.”
The bouncer looked at you and shrugged, “It was the closest exit.”
“So be it. But if there’s anything more than a 5% drop this week, I will break more than your ankle.”
He swallowed. The idea was humorous, being that he had to be at least 6’5, and well over 200 pounds. However, there were plenty of rumors about what you did to disobedient employees. You didn’t approve of unnecessary physical violence, but you had to keep people in line. This was L.A after all.
The ambulance finally showed up, and paramedics inspected your dancer. It was probably 60 degrees out, and she was hardly wearing anything. You glanced at the line, running your eyes over the people waiting. Walking to a man on his phone, you tapped on his shoulder.
“You look like a proper gentlemen, mind if I borrow your jacket?”
He turned to you, “Oh goodness, see I’m just passing by-“
“Please?” You offered a smile. He was elegantly dressed. Oh, a man in a suit was a good man indeed.
He hesitated, sighing, “I suppose.” He slipped off the jacket, handing it to you.
“Lovely,” you smiled again, then turned away from him abruptly and returned to the dancer. What was her name… Kaley? Karen? Something with a K…
You knelt beside her, “Here.” You wrapped the jacket around her shoulders. Tears were pouring silently down her cheeks as a paramedic examined and wrapped her ankle. It was so swollen, definitely broken.
“Thank you s-so much, I’m so so sorry, I-“ She stumbled over her words.
“Don’t worry, there’s no need to apologize. I’ll pay for the medical bills, should you need an operation, I’ll pay for that too. Just come back to work for me, okay?” Your voice was soft.
Her eyes welled up with tears again, makeup running down her cheeks. “Oh god, thank you so much! I’ll repay you, thank you.”
“You will repay me by returning,” you stood. “Enjoy your vacation.”
She smiled weakly, nodding. The paramedics helped her into the ambulance, then drove off silently. Business went on. You still hadn’t gotten her name.
As you turned to go back to your office, you felt a hand on your shoulder. You froze.
“I suppose when you said “borrow”, you really meant “keep.””
It was the handsome man from before. You smiled, turning to face him. “I guess it just turned out that way.”
“Hm. Well, however will you repay me?”
You looked at him timidly. He had deep brown eyes, a mischievous smile, ruffled brown hair and set frame. He looked like he were, to put it simply, up to no good. Especially now that you’d gotten a good look at him.
You stepped back. “What do you think you’re doing here, Mr. Morningstar.”
He chuckled, “Oh, you know me? I swore you looked familiar,” he smiled at you, tilting his head. “I just wanted to ask a few questions.”
“About what?”
He ran a hand through his hair, lowering his chin as he looked at you. You could smell his cologne, the mints on his tongue. Where had you met him? Where had you met him…
“What’s your deepest desire, Ms l/n….”