Dree raised her shot glass high above her head to toast the gilded Buddha towering over the nightclub. She shoved all the air from her lungs through her throat and screamed with her whole body at the people yammering over the techno music and each other, “I’m gonna screw every man in this bar tonight!”
The crowd roared its approval amid laughter and raised cocktail glasses that glinted in the dark nightclub’s spinning lights. Their faces and gaping, open mouths swam through the air as Dree bobbled where she was standing on top of the chair.
Dree tossed the remaining tequila into her mouth to seal the deal, and the liquor sent acrid fumes up her nose to mix with the aromas of roasting meat, sizzling ginger, beer, wine, cocktails, and people becoming sweaty from dancing in an overheated nightclub. She swallowed the tequila hard because her stomach was already raw from three earlier shots of tequila plus even more cocktails.
Dree raised both her arms and screamed, “Woo!” Thus, becoming a “woo-girl” for the first time since college.
Dozens of men and women woo’d back at her, so she waved her arms and woo’d some more.
It felt great.
Yeah, she was a frickin’ woo-girl tonight. Goddammit, she totally was.
She had, literally, nothing left to lose.
Two waitstaff came over and scolded her in French too rapid for Dree to comprehend, both because she was drunk and because college French had been a few years before. They were definitely wagging their fingers at her and pointing at the floor, though.
The seat of the bar chair she was standing on slid sideways under her feet, tilting her. She caught the back of the seat right before she fell off.
One of the servers grabbed Dree’s hand as she stumbled, and she allowed herself to be helped down from her perch. The seat jittered and swiveled as she held onto the back and found the floor with her toes, trying not to drop the shot glass she held in her left hand. The last thing she needed was to add broken glass to the mix.
As she held onto the barstool and eased herself down to standing on the wobbling floor, she thanked the waiters, who sighed visibly at her but walked away, letting her stay in the club.
Good. The point of the evening was not to get thrown out of the Buddha Bar in Paris. The point of the evening was—
—Well, she’d just proclaimed it to the room.
Dree plunked her butt back on the bar chair and glanced around. Lights spinning in time with the techno dance music dazzled her eyes. The crowd had already forgotten about Dree’s statement of purpose and gone back to yammering and yelling over the music and each other as they tried to talk their way into each other’s pants.
The petite woman who had helped Dree stand up on the barstool seconds before rolled her eyes. “Déchirée.”
When your nickname is Dree and you take college French, you learn real quick that déchirée means plastered drunk.
Yeah, she was wasted and had just announced her sordid intentions to the bar.
And why not?
Quite literally, Dree had nothing in the world left to lose.
Dree shook the last few drops of tequila from the shot glass into her mouth and set it on a cocktail napkin that was covered with black, feminine handwriting, only some of it her own.
Right away, she realized her mistake and moved the shot glass back onto the wooden presentation tray, and she shook out the napkin and blew on it, drying the one dot of liquid blurring a line that formed the bottom of the P in Nepal.
Ruining that napkin would be a disaster. Dree folded it carefully and tucked it into her tiny clutch purse because it was her bucket list, her guiding light for the rest of her life that she had screwed up so badly because she’d trusted the wrong guy.
The so-wrong guy.
The wrongiest of all the wronginator guys.
She was so screwed.
But tonight, she was having one last drink in the Buddha Bar in Paris, and then she was going to screw all the guys in the nightclub.
Or at least a fair number of them.
It said right there on that napkin that was now safely in her purse that she needed to have a one-night stand with a beautiful man whom she’d never see again, or to have a threesome, or to have a foursome with three guys, or a gang bang.
All those debaucheries were listed right there on the napkin, so she pretty much had to do them, right?
Yes, she did.
Maybe she should write a book about that someday, The Guidance of the Napkin. It could be about how people could change their lives by meeting random people in bars and following their drunken advice written on a napkin instead of following what they were “supposed to do.”
Doing what you were “supposed to do” in life led to pathetic betrayals from people who were supposed to love you and complete destitution, so that couldn’t be right.
Dree was living proof of that. She had lost everything she’d owned, absolutely everything, because she’d loved and trusted the wrong guy.
Because Dree had no frickin’ judgment when it came to people.
So, she needed to stop being such an idiot and screwing up her life.
Following the list on the napkin sounded like a great idea.
Lots of ideas sounded great when Dree was déchirée, drunk off her ass.
But she was going to do at least one of those things on the napkin tonight.
Rivulets of men trickled through the thick crowd, edging toward her.
That’s what she damn well wanted, wasn’t it?
All the many, many menny men.
Dree glanced down the bar in the direction of the enormous Buddha statue that loomed over the partying crowd and saw the man who was leaning against the bar two seats away from her. The woman who had pronounced Dree déchirée and one other guy separated him from Dree.
That gorgeous man whom Dree had noticed a few minutes earlier looked up at her as if he had felt her eyes on him. He hadn’t yelled with the rest of the guys when she’d announced her challenge. Even now, his expression wasn’t precisely startled, but a tight wariness had entered his dark eyes and his athletic stance as he leaned on the bar, holding an amber drink with ice in a highball glass.
When the man had arrived a few minutes earlier, Dree had noticed him as soon as he’d touched the bar, a few people away from where she’d been sitting. She was pretty sure half the people in the Buddha Bar had watched him cross the room and order a drink before they broke his spell and went back to their own, now-troubled conversations, but they were still sneaking glances at him.
The tall man had smiled easily while he ordered a drink, his gaze serene while he surveyed the crowd. He was really tall, too. His head stuck up above everyone else’s like they were a black-and-blond ocean and he was swimming with his head held high out of the waves, lest he soak his dark, curling hair that swayed over his forehead and neck. He looked like he was a white guy with a tan, or he might be olive-skinned, like from somewhere near the Mediterranean Sea. Something about him made her feel like a fish drawn to an irresistible lure.
When he twisted, turning toward Dree, his white tee shirt pulled taut over his broad, muscular chest and shoulders. The pristine cotton clung to the rounds of his massive pectorals, the ripples of his abdominal muscles, and his obliques that cut diagonal slices from his ribs to the waistband of his trousers.
Oh, somebody worked out.
Dree had to respect the time in the gym, even though she did not go to the gym nearly as much as he obviously did.
Or ever, really. The hospital where she worked had a gym, and she had been meaning to start going there for three years.
The man’s dark dress pants contrasted oddly with his plain white tee, which looked like it might be an undershirt. If it had clung to his skin any more tightly, she would have thought he had just won a wet-tee-shirt contest. She could see every one of his eight-pack of abdominal muscles, even those top ones nestled under his pecs.
When Dree leaned back to observe the guy’s backside, his legs were long and thick with muscle.
Between his incongruous clothes, tousled black curls, and sleepy blinks, the guy looked like he’d left his suit jacket, shirt, and tie on someone’s bedroom floor and sauntered into the bar for a drink.
That man could throw his clothes on Déchirée Dree’s floor anytime.
She was so drunk. This was not like her, but tonight, anything seemed possible. Everything seemed possible.
She wanted to touch him. The tequila shots she’d sucked down made her body feel languorous and heavy, and she wanted a tall, strong, sexy man to touch her, drive her backward with the warmth of his male body, and move above her and inside her with slow, sinuous thrusts, his faint masculine musk surrounding her and driving her out of her mind.
The deliberate way that man lifted his drink to his mouth—when he touched the highball glass to his full, lower lip before he tilted it, the liquid flowed in, and he swallowed—made Dree think he would be incredible in bed, that he’d take his time, that he’d know what he was doing to her.
The inside of her mouth watered like she wanted to lick him.
And he was still staring back at her, his dark eyes serious and almost wary.
He took the glass away from his mouth like he was stripping off his shirt for her to see his naked flesh.
Dree was leaning so far toward him that she nearly fell off her chair.
A new guy inserted himself into her view, jamming himself into the narrow space between Dree and the petite, judgey woman sitting next to her.
Dree looked up.
The new guy’s red silk shirt was unbuttoned to his waist, exposing a thatch of black chest hair. “Bonsoir.”
“Uh, yeah. Hi,” Dree said.
“You called for volunteers?” the guy asked with a strong French accent.
“Uh, about that,” Dree said, leaning back in her seat in retreat and gripping an empty shot glass.
She should not have stood on her bar chair and announced that. The napkin said to do something that she might regret later, but she regretted yelling that right now.
Another guy moved up to stand beside the first. “I heard you say you were going to screw every guy in the bar.”
She examined the shot glass in front of her instead of meeting his eyes. “I sure did say that.”
“So, you didn’t mean it when you announced that you wanted to screw every guy in the bar?”
“Maybe announcing it was a bad decision,” she admitted.
Two more guys crowded around her chair. “‘Allo, my sweet. Is this party full, or am I just in time?”
Another guy with a New York accent said, “I’m not taking sloppy seconds. I want to screw her mouth, and I want to go first.”
“Whoa,” Dree said, leaning back, her feet scrambling for the foot-rest bar to shove herself backward in her chair. “Slow down, dudes.”
More men stepped up, forming a knot around where she sat, boxing her in.
A gravelly voice asked, “Is this where I redeem my one-free-screw coupon?”
Another said, “She’s fatter than she looked.”
“Hey!” Dree said, getting pissed.
Another man reached for her as he said, “I want to screw her tits. I get off on tits. You want to be un chou à la crème?”
He was asking if she wanted to be a cream pie.
She slapped his encroaching hand. “Ew!”
“You didn’t seem so finicky before,” an American guy said. “Sounded like you wanted to be the slimy center of a circle jerk.”
“Yuck! Jeez, you guys. Back off!”
“You said you wanted all the men,” another guy said in halting English.
The group tightened around her. Their heat reached her, making the air damp with their sweat. Tremors filled her arms.
A strong hand grabbed her boob. “Nice tits.”
She shoved at the man’s arm, knocking him back, but more hands were reaching for her. She clutched her little purse to her chest like the tiny scrap of pink leather could shield her, “Stop it!”
“Are we going to do this here or outside in the alley?” one of them asked.
Another hand dove between Dree’s thighs, and she clamped her legs together and punched at the arm and face connected to it.
The shaking in her arms wracked her whole body.
There were too many of them.
Too many hands, and all were too big and too strong.
“Leave me alone,” she begged them. More hands, more leering faces, more hands and bodies coming at her and trapping her. “Stop! Jesus Christ, just leave me alone!”
Movement from behind the guys.
A few of the guys’ heads swiveled left as something drew their attention, and their eyes widened.
Large, strong hands appeared over the wall of her attackers and grasped their shoulders. Their attached bodies flailed and flopped aside.
The cluster of men fragmented like a rotting sea wall broken apart by a rogue wave.
Men’s voices yelled as the barrier they’d made themselves into was ripped apart.
A tower of white cotton and muscled flesh breached the ring of guys and rose in front of her. Scents of mild soap and a fresh, masculine aftershave emanated from the white tee shirt and the mountain of a man standing there and facing away from her. One of his arms reached back to shield her, and the other shoved outward, pushing the guys’ shoulders and forcing them to stumble backward.
The man’s deep voice said in British-accented English, “Back away. The lady said she wanted to be left alone.”