I was doing my best not to just drag Collins out of the club by her hair, but it was a serious struggle. I had so many damn questions, and she didn’t seem compelled to answer any of them.
Regardless of how we came to meet and be in that hotel room together, I had feelings for this woman, and I refused to believe that she didn’t have any for me. From the moment that we’d met, she’d been stepping out of her comfort zone to be with me. First, the dance, and then meeting me at the hotel. How could she act like none of it mattered?
“What are you talking about?” she rushed out.
“You’re out of your fucking mind if you think that I’m going to let you dance for money,” I told her, not caring one goddamn bit that I had no right to direct her in anything regarding her life.
Her head reared back. “Excuse me?”
“If you need money, then I’ll give it to you,” I said, further digging myself into a hole. “But you are not getting up on that fucking stage, Collins. I forbid it.”
Her blue eyes were round with all kinds of emotions. “You forbid it?”
“You better fucking believe it,” I snapped.
Collins tightened her flimsy robe around her waist. “The last time that I checked, we weren’t married,” she practically snarled. “You can’t forbid me from doing shit.”
“Wanna bet?” I challenged.
“So, it’s okay to sleep with you for ten-thousand dollars, but it’s not okay to let other men-”
“Finish that sentence, and I will not be responsible for my actions,” I warned her. “I am not other fucking men, Collins.”
“You’re such a hypocrite,” she accused. “It’s okay for you to come here and appreciate everything that the club has to offer, but I can’t? It’s okay for you to tip a naked girl money for giving you something to look at, but it’s not okay for other men to tip me for the same thing?”
“I’m only here for business,” I informed her. “The only reason that I have ever come here is for my clients. I came back on Saturday for you and you only.”
“That’s not the point,” she argued.
“Then what is the point?” I asked. “What is this really about? The money?”
“Are you seriously trying to tell me that you actually want to date a woman who took money for sex?” she fired back. “And before you mention that I didn’t take the money, that hardly matters. My original intention had been to take the money.”
“You have it all wrong, Collins. The fact that you didn’t take the money changes everything.”
“I wanted you any way that I could get you,” I told her. “I don’t give a fuck about the money. I offered it because I knew that you could use it. I didn’t offer it for sex.”
“And the fact that you didn’t take it proves that Saturday night meant more to you than you’re admitting.”
I watched her take in a deep breath, and I hated how beautiful she looked. She was dressed up for a bunch of strangers that didn’t deserve it. Collins was geared up to show a room full of men that incredible body of hers, and there was no way that I could let that happen.
“Evander, even if…if…even if we did begin to date or…or whatever, my bills are my responsibility, and if I have to dance to keep my head above water, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
I saw red.
It wasn’t a splash of bright crime scene red, but it was still there, nonetheless.
Unreasonably, I said, “You’re going to quit all your fucking jobs and stay home to take care of your grandmother, that’s what you’re going to do.”
This time, Collins reared back like I’d slapped her. “Are you insane?”
“You’re not fucking dancing!” I roared.
“We’re doing this, and as the man in your life, it’s my job to take care of you and all of your needs,” I continued to spew like a caveman right out of the cave. “Your mental, spiritual, emotional, physical, sexual, and financial needs are all my responsibility.” Collins opened her mouth to argue, but I was on a roll. “And I don’t give a fuck that it’s 2022. If you belong to me, then all of you belongs to me.”
“Oh, my God,” she practically screeched. “Do you hear yourself?”
“Do you hear me?” I shot back. “This isn’t up for fucking debate.”
“We’re not even dating!” she yelled. “Where do you get off?”
“If you think that I won’t drag you out of here by your hair, you are very wrong, Collins,” I said, my voice quiet and serious, and she really should take heed. I genuinely felt like I was losing my mind.
Collins shook her head. “I think you’ve lost your damn mind.”
“Yeah, and what gives you that impression?” I drawled out sarcastically.
“Look, I don’t know what the hell is going on in that mind of yours, but you are crazy if you think that I’m going to just let you take over my life after one night together-”
“Why not, what?”
“Why can’t I take over your life?” I asked. “What’s wrong with having someone take care of you for once?”
“Because I don’t know you,” she cried out. “Jesus Christ, Evander.”
“You know enough,” I lied.
“I know how you fuck,” she spat, finally fed up with my craziness. “I’m not about to risk my entire life and that of my grandmother’s on good dick, Evander.”
Before I could argue with her some more, the door to the office opened, and Carver came walking inside, and the man looked ready to do battle. Though his face looked impassive, there was tension radiating from every muscle in his body.
“Is there a problem?” he asked, his bright eyes focused on me and not Collins.
I straightened my back because I was a man that was looking at another man stepping in between this thing with me and Collins. “Yeah, there is.”
Carver nodded knowingly. “I figured there might be.”
“What the fuck, Carver? You’re letting her dance?”
The fucker’s lips twitched, and I wanted to punch him in the face. “Seeing as how we’re in America and all, plus the fact that Collins is a grown adult, yeah…I’m letting her dance. Can’t have any discrimination happening in my club, Evander.”
“Bullshit,” I snapped.
“I think that you should probably leave before her set begins,” he replied calmly, and all that did was fuel my fire more. “I like you, Evander. I don’t want to have to bar you from the club or call the police.”
“Call them,” I practically growled. “Because if you think that I’m going to allow Collins to get up on that stage for these motherfuckers, then you’re very mistaken.” Even knowing that it would be a tough fight, I added, “If I have to go through you to get to her, I will.”
Carver arched a brow. “Glad to hear it,” he smirked. “Because that’s exactly what you’ll have to do if you-.”
“Stop it,” Collins cried out, finally speaking. “Just…just stop it.”
Carver looked down at her. “Collins-”
“No, Carver,” she rushed out emotionally. “I…we’re not starving, so…so there’s no need to call the police, or fight, or any of this shit.”
“Collins, if you want to dance, then you-”
“Not like this,” she told him. “I just…I never thought…I didn’t see this coming.”
“Well, you should have,” I bit out. “I fell in love on Saturday night, even if you didn’t. There’s no way in hell that I’m going to allow you to dance. Not without the fight of your fucking life, Collins.”
Her blue eyes just blinked at me in shock. While I had planned on saving the declaration of love for later down the line, I wasn’t about to take back my words now. Love or insanity, I wasn’t about to downplay what this woman did to me.
“I think you need to leave, Evander,” Carver repeated. However, before I could argue, he added, “I’ll make sure she passes on her set.”
I looked between Carver and Collins, and I knew that Carver was doing his best to keep this from getting any uglier than it already was. “Fine,” I relented. “But if I find out that she danced, I’m taking a fucking match to the entire building, Carver, and I’m not fucking around.”
His lips twitched again, though he said, “Don’t threaten me, Evander.”
“Don’t fuck with what’s mine, Carver,” I shot back.