Turning of the Stars Ch. 03byPanthem©
Anna was in the back shelving a new shipment of books when she heard the bell ring indicating someone had come in the store. She knew Jessie was out front and would take care of whoever it was so she was too surprised to do any more than squeak feebly when suddenly someone grabbed her from behind and lifted her off the ground, spinning her halfway around before setting her back on her feet.
"Surprise," a familiar voice said quietly in her ear.
"Jesus Grant, you scared the crap out of me. You're lucky I didn't use my self defense tactics on you. I took a class in college you know."
"Mm, you'll have to show me some of your moves sometime," he said, nuzzling her neck.
Anna laughed at the tickling sensation and turned around in his arms to see that he had the beginnings of a neatly trimmed beard growing. With the baseball cap he was wearing she'd have hardly recognized him if he hadn't had his arms wrapped familiarly around her. "What are you doing here? I've been waiting for you to call all day."
"I know, I'm sorry. I just got the call myself." A huge grin spread across his face. "I had to come give you the good news in person."
Anna smiled and threw her arms around his neck, squeezing hard.
"I'm in the clear, someone up there must like me," he muttered into her hair.
"I'm so happy for you." When she finally managed to pull back to look at his face he was still smiling and she couldn't help leaning in for a kiss. She came up for air when she felt the wall against her backside and looked up, surprised to see he'd moved her without her noticing. They were hidden between two tall bookshelves, but Anna wasn't going to take any risks. "You know we can't do it here, right? Jesse's out front."
"Is that the only reason we can't do it here? Because of Jesse? If so, I'd be glad to give her a few bucks to run out and get some lunch or something. I know there's a couch here somewhere."
Anna pushed against his shoulder weakly, unwilling to admit the attractiveness of the idea. "Shut up. So what's the plan? Do you work tonight?"
"Yes, but I've been in my office all morning getting the paperwork caught up and I'm about to go back and take care of some things at the restaurant. So I just need to stay long enough tonight to give everyone their breaks and then I can leave. We usually close early on Mondays anyway. I'll probably be free by eleven." He looked at her hopefully. "That's not too late, is it?"
"No, I don't have to be at work until one tomorrow so I can be up late."
"Good. Because I plan to keep you up very, very late," he said menacingly, punctuating his words with sharp nips to her neck.
Anna felt her body respond, arching off the wall and pressing against the length of him. She turned her head and captured his lips with hers, pressing her tongue into the warmth of his mouth. They parted only when the ringing of the bell over the door startled them both back to reality.
"Hey Jess, where's Anna?" Claudia's voice rang out in the quiet store.
"She's in the back. Um, she has a visitor," Jesse said, raising her voice in a warning tone.
Grant grinned and swept his thumb across Anna's lower lip to wipe the moisture off, then stepped away from her and turned toward the opening between the bookshelves. Anna tried to smooth her hair and straighten her clothes before following him.
"Claudia, nice to see you again."
"Hey there, handsome. I knew you wouldn't be able to stay away for long. What are you doing here? Or do I need to ask," she said smiling widely and winking at Anna as she came into sight from around the bookshelves.
"I had to see you again, of course," Grant said as he leaned in and gave her a peck on the cheek.
Claudia laughed and patted him on the shoulder. "Such a charmer, no wonder Anna is under your spell."
"Is she now?" Grant grinned and looked at Anna who was flushing visibly and pretending not to have heard. "I'd have guessed it was the other way around. I'm even growing this beard for her, but she hasn't said a word about it."
"Oh lord, son, don't listen to her on matters of fashion, she'll turn you into one of her smelly little hippy boys if you let her."
"Not likely. I draw the line at listening to the Grateful Dead and I'm pretty sure that's a prerequisite for hippies."
"You guys realize I'm standing right here, don't you? I can hear you."
Claudia and Grant burst out laughing and Jessie gave Anna a sympathetic smile.
"I should head out before I cause any more trouble. I've got some business to take care of anyway," Grant said with a wink at Anna. "Will you walk me out?"
"Sure. I'll be right back," she said to Claudia.
"Take your time. Nice to see you again Grant, come by any time."
"Will do. See you ladies later."
Anna felt a momentary flash of self-consciousness knowing her friends were watching when he put his hand on the small of her back as they walked out together; and again when he leaned in to kiss her on the sidewalk.
"The beard looks really nice," she murmered when he pulled away. "But you didn't have to grow one just for me. I was just teasing you."
Grant shrugged and ran a hand across the hair in question. "I like it actually. I don't know why I didn't think of it before. People don't recognize me with it."
"I almost didn't," she said with a grin. "Of course usually when strange men grab me from behind I strike first and ask questions later. You got off lucky."
His grin faded and he looked her directly in the eye. "I certainly did," he said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
Anna felt herself start to blush again and spoke to cover it. "So do you want to come to my place tonight after work?"
"I can do that. Or if you want to come by the club when you get off you could hang out for a bit and then we can go to my place as soon as I'm done. Whichever you'd be more comfortable with."
"Okay, I'll do that. I'll see you a little after nine?"
"Sounds like a plan. I'll see you then." He planted a chaste kiss on her cheek before turning to get in his car.
Anna walked back inside, bracing herself and blushing in advance for the teasing she knew she would have to endure from Claudia.
"Oh my lord," Claudia said in an awed tone. "Why didn't you tell me he has an XK8?"
Anna stared at her blankly; whatever Claudia was talking about it was not what she'd been expecting.
"A Jaguar XK8, Anna! That one's an older model, I think late nineties, and it looked kind of beat up, but still it's possibly the sexiest car ever built. Please tell me you know what I'm talking about."
Anna shook her head hesitantly. "Are you talking about Grant's car? It's a convertible, but I'm telling you it is way over-rated."
Claudia just stared at her open-mouthed. "Luxury is wasted on you," she said, shaking her head sadly.
Anna caught a ride home with Claudia and considered asking her to wait a few minutes and drive her to the club, but didn't want to explain why she was gathering things for an overnight stay. It wasn't too late and it would only take twenty minutes or so to walk there, so she said good night to Claudia and went in alone to change.
Her heart was beating fast in anticipation; it had been doing that on and off all afternoon. She kept getting these graphic mental images that stopped her in her tracks in the middle of mundane tasks. Even Jesse, who usually was very mild mannered, had gotten annoyed with her distraction this afternoon.
Fortunately she'd shaved in her bath the day before so all she had to do was take a quick shower and grab her toothbrush. She hesitated when she went to put on her dress, wondering if the halter top would be appropriate for the club, but it was a warm night and she had a decent walk ahead of her so she bit the bullet and put the dress on, glad for once that her breasts were small enough to get away with not wearing a bra. Just as she was gathering her things to head out she got a text from Grant.
"Take it. It's already paid for."
Anna had no idea what he was talking about and shook her head, figuring he'd sent a text to the wrong person. The heat hit her like a wet blanket and she groaned thinking about how hot and sweaty she'd be by the time she made it to the club. And then she saw the cab waiting on the street. Her phone buzzed again.
"Don't be mad."
She shook her head at his presumptuousness and had only a moment of irritation before acknowledging to herself that she was too relieved to be upset. When they arrived at the club she gave the driver a generous tip and climbed out.
Standing at the end of the short line in front of the club she felt awkward and wondered if there was something she should be doing with herself while she waited, but before she had much time to worry about it she heard her name.
She looked up and saw Brody, the man Grant had introduced her to, standing at the door. She smiled and waved and he crooked his finger indicating she should come to the front of the line.
"Hi Brody," she said as she approached. "Nice to see you again."
"My pleasure," he said with a smile. "Go on in, you don't wait in line. You're L-1."
Anna paused a moment in the doorway. "What does that mean?"
"It's a security level. L-1 is open access. No lines, no covers, everything is comped. Usually it's just employees and their families, a few investors. But the boss says you're L-1 so you're L-1."
"Oh," she said, slightly confused about why she'd been accorded that status. "Well, thanks again. Have a nice night, Brody."
"You too," he said, holding the door for her.
Brody signaled to the man taking the covers, a different man than the one she'd seen there before, that she was to be waived in and she was grateful that she didn't have to deal with the awkwardness of explaining to him who she was. "I'm the girl your boss is gonna be screwing later," just seemed way too classy.
Anna walked in and felt instantly out of place alone in the club. She walked quickly past the dance floor and into the bar area. Despite her previous coldness, Corie was a familiar sight and therefore welcome. Anna sat at the bar and waited until she had a free moment to ask for a drink. Ten minutes later she was still waiting and ended up having to wave to get Corie's attention when she could see that no one else was waiting to be served.
"Hi, how are you?" she said when Corie finally approached.
"Can I get you something?"
"Oh, um, yeah, can I get a Yeungling?"
Corie set the bottle of beer in front of her without a word and walked away.
Anna rolled her eyes at Corie's back and turned to survey the room. It wasn't crowded at all, just a few people here and there. She considered knocking on Grant's office door, but didn't want to disturb him if he was busy. Her eyes landed on the pool table and she decided to go watch the game going on.
She sat by herself at a table nearby, but not close enough to be in the way. Three men were taking turns playing nine ball in pairs, putting quarters down on the rail to claim the next game. The men were obviously friends, but talked to each other as if they were life-long rivals and Anna found herself chuckling more than once at their insults. After about fifteen minutes of watching and nursing her beer Anna dug in her purse for two quarters and set them on the rail.
Brody texted Grant to let him know that Anna had arrived, but he'd been called over to the restaurant and couldn't get away. Right after his manager cut half the serving staff there had been a late-night rush of people coming in from a nearby theater that just let out so Grant had gone over there with Janette, the new cocktail waitress, to help out.
He chose her because he was already familiar with the restaurant, having worked there as a server before moving over to the club to cover for Marie during her maternity leave. Corie was right about her though, she was pretty obnoxious and he found himself wishing he'd just gone alone, spending so much time fending off her inept attempts to impress him that it made him feel counter-productive.
At any rate he was too busy running food, busing tables, and making a mental note to contact the manager of the theater to get a copy of their schedule to think much about it, but he knew Anna must be over at the club waiting for him. By the time the rush was over and he made his way back to the club he was a little concerned about whether she would still be there and if so, how mad she'd be.
He shouldn't have worried, as it turned out, when he walked into the bar area his eyes were immediately drawn to Anna laughing and playing pool with Frank, Robbie, and Dan, three of his regular customers. They definitely weren't the typical club types, having long passed the retirement age for such activities, but they had started coming to The Dark Side for the food when it first opened and still came in, on nights when it wasn't busy, to play pool and get beer from Corie who, to her reluctant delight, they called the best bartender in town.
Anna was bent over the pool table taking a shot as Grant approached and the smile she gave him when she looked up and noticed him sent a shockwave through his body. The dress she was wearing left her shoulders and a large expanse of her back bare and the effect on him was powerful and immediate. He came to a stop several feet away to give himself a moment to regain control and suppress the urge to pull the tie at her neck just to watch the dress fall away from her breasts.
Anna chose that moment to walk around to his side of the table and bend to take another shot. His imagination helpfully supplied a mental image of her bent over the pool table in front of him with that dress pushed up on her back and her panties yanked down around her ankles.
When he finally tore himself away from his pornographic thoughts he watched in astonishment as she proceeded to knock in the five ball, then the six. Then she chalked her cue and muttered something as she bent and carefully lined up the cue ball to knock the seven into the nine which rolled all the way across the table and land in the corner pocket.
Robbie, Dan, and Grant all burst into a simultaneous, "Oh!" when the ball fell in, while Frank stood silently shaking his head in disbelief. Anna smiled and gave her cheer squad high fives and then turned to Grant and waved hello.
"Looks like you just got your ass handed to you, Frank," Grant said with a smile. Frank flipped him the bird.
"Watch out for this one, Grant, she's a hustler." Robbie maintained a comically straight face while he spoke. "I'm just lucky you came along before she got her chance at me."
"Hey now," Anna objected. "If I was a hustler I'd be walking away richer. As it is I'm down a whole fifty cents."
"That means you'll have to come back and try to make your money back another time," Frank said with a grin.
"Maybe next time I can give you lessons." Anna handed her cue to Dan, who once again burst into laughter at his friend's expense.
"I knew you had it in you." Robbie clapped Anna on the shoulder and turned to Grant. "She's been nothing but sweet and almost apologized for whipping poor Danny here on her first game. But now that she's walking away she starts on the shit-talking."
Grant gritted his teeth and the sight of Rob's hand on Anna's bare skin, but he knew the man was harmless so he suppressed the urge to knock his teeth out. Instead he smiled and said, "I guess that means I should get her out of here before she brings one or more of you to tears."
"Yeah, take her away while my dignity is still intact," Robbie said, winking at her.
"Thanks for letting me hang, guys. Have a good night."
"See you guys later." Grant slipped his arm around her possessively and smiled as they walked away. "Now, I know the CIA didn't teach you to be a pool shark. Where on earth did you learn to play like that?"
"Imagine a bunch of bored teenagers on a farm looking for any excuse to get out of their parents' houses for a while. We spent a lot of time in the community center and there was a pool table in there," she said with a smile. "Do you mind if I stop at the bar and buy those guys a pitcher? They were so nice and didn't mind at all when I busted in on their game."
"Of course." As gorgeous as she looked tonight he wasn't surprised in the least that the guys hadn't minded her joining them, though he wisely didn't voice those thoughts. He waved to get Corie's attention as they approached the bar. "Dan and the guys' next round is on the house."
"Alright," Corie called from the other end of the bar.
He turned to see Anna laying down a ten dollar bill on the bar and shook his head. "It's on the house."
"I said I wanted to buy it. I'll pay for it." She walked away from the bar leaving the money.
He stuck the ten in the tip jar and caught up with Anna at the door to his office. "Has anyone ever told you you've got a stubborn streak?" he muttered as he unlocked the door and walked inside.
Anna followed him in and was just opening her mouth to speak when Grant turned and pushed her back against the door, closing it and lowering his mouth to hers at the same time. Whatever she had been about to say evaporated from her mind as he pressed against her, his hands sliding over her body, his tongue demanding entrance.
Her hands came up to tangle in his curls and the last coherent thought she had was that he'd clearly been holding back up to now. She'd thought his kisses had affected her before, but this unrestrained version of Grant was a whole different ball game. He filled her senses, overwhelming and confusing her, making her weak in the knees and breathless.
Grant reached around her to lock the door and then pulled back and looked at her intently as he brought his hand up around her neck and grabbed the dangling string of her halter top. Her eyes were glued to his face while he slowly drew it downward between her breasts, his fingers trailing along her skin as he went.
Anna felt a slight pop as the knot at her neck came loose and then the cool draft as the fabric covering her breasts fell to her ribs. The combination of amusement, satisfaction, and intense lust was so apparent on Grant's face that he might as well have just spoken it out loud and it made her tremble with anticipation.
His fingers found the delicate skin on the sides of her breasts, stroking up and down a few times before letting his thumbs drift down to tease the undersides. He watched, fascinated, as the skin around her nipples puckered and wrinkled to hard tips.
Anna's breath was coming in shallow gasps and when he once again circled her areola without closing in on her nipple she let out a frustrated moan. The sly smile it brought to Grant's face told her that had been what he was waiting for.
He looked up into her eyes with the smirk still on his face and she only had time to notice that his eyes had darkened nearly to black before he brought his lips to hers and covered both breasts with his hands, kneading them gently as he brushed the tips with the rough skin of his palms.
Anna gasped into his mouth, and his tongue pushed deep into hers, stroking her in time with his hands. She barely had the presence of mind to think, but instinctively pulled his shirt out of his pants and started to slide her hand inside. Grant grabbed her wrist and lifted her arm above her head.
"Uh uh, I've got some business I need to take care of before we get to that," he said with a crooked grin.
He lifted her other arm and held both wrists with one hand, leaving his other free to attend to business. He teased her nipples with light pinches and tugs as he kissed her lightly, nipping at her lips, refusing to give in to her attempts to capture his mouth with her own. Anna stomped her foot in frustration and he chuckled darkly, pressing close with is body and rubbing his prickly chin along her jaw line.