Home > The Bet (Winslow Brothers #1)(7)

The Bet (Winslow Brothers #1)(7)
Author: Max Monroe

And, apparently, as I stand in front of the mirror in the back dressing room, pressing my hands into the tabletop in front of me with the force of a superhero, I don’t know how to cope with that kind of dichotomy.

I can’t pursue something like taking her home tonight, but for as much as I try, I can’t seem to just forget about it either.

The door to the dressing room cracks against the wall as it slams open, temporarily undiluting the thump of bass from the DJ’s music. I crane my neck to see who it is, but when Maverick’s jovial eyes lock on to mine, I wish I hadn’t looked.

“Oh, man, Jude, don’t tell me it didn’t go well,” he remarks with entirely too much excitement. Clearly, he’s misread the stress I’m carrying as being performance-related, and being the type of guy he is—and I normally am, frankly—he isn’t hesitating to rub it in my face. “Did the ladies not like what you had to offer?”

I shake my head and close my eyes briefly before spinning around to face him, crossing my arms over my chest, and sinking my ass into the edge of the table.

“It went fine,” I hear myself say, a huge understatement by any standards. Still, it doesn’t seem right to disclose what I witnessed without the bride’s permission, let alone to a bigmouth like Mav. He’d eat it up, that’s for sure, if he could even find it within himself to believe it.

The truth is, it’ll probably be much easier to pretend I flopped than contend with any of the other complications of the truth.

The only problem, of course, with that plan of action is my ego.

Fucking hell, I don’t want to lose this bet when I really kicked its ass five ways to Sunday.

But I can’t bring myself to prove it either. It looks like Maverick might get to keep that hundred bucks he owes me after all.

“You bombed, dude. I can see it written all over your face!” he practically yells, crossing the room to slap me on the back. One more hard slap and all the confessions about what really happened in that VIP room are libel to come up like vomit—word vomit.

“I didn’t bomb,” I hedge, gritting my teeth against the urge to wring my own neck. I don’t know what is wrong with me all of a sudden or why I’m being such a pussy, but I don’t like it one bit. “But I am inexperienced in the ways of your profession, and the lack of training was obvious.”

Because I’m pretty sure making the women orgasm isn’t part of the exotic dancer’s handbook or official training video.

“I told you,” he boasts cheerfully, slamming his palm into his locker and laughing. His muscles twitch obnoxiously as he holds his arms out to his sides and proclaims, “Everyone can’t be as good as me, dude. It’s just a scientific impossibility.”

Somehow, I manage a nod, even though the tension in my neck feels like it could snap it in two.

“Well, I guess we’re even on the money, then, huh?” he says through a growing smile. “Too bad you had to double down on that shit, but I guess that’s to be expected. Jude Winslow can never resist a bet.”

He’s right. Up until now, I wouldn’t say I’ve ever had the impulse control to resist much of anything that comes with a temporary high or instant gratification.

How is it, then, that I managed to stop myself from telling him all about how good I really am at his job?

 


Back in my normal clothes, I stand at the window behind the DJ booth in the top office and scan the crowd of partying New Yorkers and tourists. The mood is up, the vibe is right, and Club Craze is an undeniable hit among the young and fabulous.

Rainbow-colored lights strobe the dance floor, cascading over the writhing bodies of hundreds of coeds as they experiment with heavy bodily contact.

My gaze doesn’t stay there for long, though. Instead, I’m drawn to the other side of the room, to the elevated booth where the bride-to-be and her group are congregated, sipping on drinks and falling drunkenly on top of one another while laughing. It’s a diverse group of friends, ranging from crazy to quiet, but the bride at the center of it all is the one who commands my attention.

I watch as she takes a sip of her drink before setting it down in front of her and then laughs, her head thrown back and her throat exposed, when one of the other women launches her body on top of Belle.

They shuffle a bit, eventually coming to a stop while sitting next to each other on the couch, and when they look up, I lean a little closer to the window and squint.

“Are they identical twins?” I whisper to myself as I conduct my inspection. Obviously, having been in the VIP room with them before, I thought I would have noticed, but evidently, my focus on the bride pertained to more than just dancing.

The same proportions, the same features, the same bright-lipstick-lined mouths—they are. Fucking identical twins.

Suddenly struck by a twisted curiosity as to whether I react to them both the same way physically—and if the other twin is spoken for—I shove away from the window and make my way out of the office, down the stairs, through the back hallway, and out into the chaos of a lively club.

It’s kind of messed up, I’ll admit, to be thinking of twins as exchangeable objects, but I can’t fucking help myself. I don’t know these women from Adam. All I know is that I’ve reacted to one I can’t have, and the selfish part of me is completely unwilling to let the rest of the night slip by without seeing if there’s something to be done about it—a backup plan, so to speak.

The crowd jostles to the music as I push my way through as inconspicuously as possible. Maverick is back at it, dancing in one of the floating cages above the dance floor to some of the best mixes Ki-Ki’s ever made. She’s on fire tonight, and the crowd is responding in kind.

The business side of me knows I should stop by the bar on my way over to the group to see how they’re handling the onslaught, but the foolishly fixated part knows it’s not an option. Maybe on the way back, but not yet. Not before I talk to the bride and her friends and her identical twin again.

Finally through the dancing crowd, I readjust my suit jacket at my waist and hop up two steps at a time onto the elevated platform where their group resides. Several sets of eyes lock on to me—followed by even more catcalls and yells of a happy, drunken nature—and I feel the corners of my mouth lift into a smile.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Jude, the Magic Dancer!” the bride’s twin cheers, making the other women hoot and the bride herself blush and look toward the ground.

I chuckle at the moniker, feeling a little emboldened by the obvious pat on the back it gives me. “Is that what I’m supposed to go by from now on?” I ask the woman whose sash reads Maid of Honor in big, glittery letters.

I study her face closely, waiting for the deep burn in my gut that I get when I look at her sister to fire up, but it never does.

No flutter of butterflies, no intense arousal, no desire to find out all her dirtiest secrets—none of it. And yet, she looks exactly the fucking same. Given how little I know about these women other than their looks, the rest of it shouldn’t matter.

But it does, goddammit. Why? Is it as simple as wanting what I can’t have?

“Yes!” the loud-mouthed blonde shouts at me excitedly. “Jude, the Magic Dancer is a better high than any dragon I’ve ever puffed, and I wasn’t even experiencing you firsthand.” She turns to the bride and demands wildly, “Tell us, Belle. What’s it like to be that close to exotic royalty?”

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