Merri tightened her scarf as she hurried to the bus stop to flag the bus as it was pulling away from the curb. Out of breath she held her chest as she swiped her card then smiled at the bus driver, “Thank you.”
She found a seat in the back and waved her hand to fan her face. A tall man in a black trench coat followed her into the bus then sat down next to her. He chuckled watching her dab the sweat from her forehead with a tissue. He inwardly sighed, Merri Winslow…you are even more beautiful than the last time I saw you. He lifted his lips in a slight smile, “Long time no see.”
Turning to look at him she squinted her eyes trying to recall him.
He grinned, “Well, you might now recognize me. I lost quite a bit of weight since I last saw you. Karl…Karl Wu.”
Merri’s eyes widened in surprise, “My God! Karl!” She giggled and put her hands on his cheeks. “You are so handsome!”
“Haha…When I entered the military the training was pretty brutal so I naturally lost weight .”
She blushed, “You are in the military?”
“Yeah. Special Forces. I am just home to visit because my grandmother is in the hospital.”
Merri had a worried expression, “That sounds dangerous, your family approved?”
“They don’t make my decisions.”
She noticed his tone didn’t sound good so she didn’t pursue the subject. “What is wrong with Grandma Wu?”
“She slipped and broke her hip.”
“Oh my! What hospital? I will go visit.”
“I will go in the morning. Oh… this is my stop coming up.” She pointed out the window, “ I work at the Wine Bar across the street.”
He frowned when he saw the people entering the club. The Black Swan is not somewhere a sweet girl like Merri should work! His expression was calm but his heart was in a knot. He had a crush on Merri when they were in High School. She was a freshman and he was a senior at the time. “I thought you were going to University.” He heard her family situation wasn’t good after her father died.
She stood up, “I am. But I need money so I work here playing the piano. Are you going to the hospital in the morning?”
“Okay I will see you then.”
He watched her leave and took out his phone, the veins on his neck were bulging thinking about the type of people that frequent The Black Swan. “Meet me at my apartment.”
The man heard an announcement in the background and he had a faint smile, “K…Are you on a bus?”
“Yeah. I didn’t want to see my brother so I didn’t go by the mansion to grab a car.”
The man threw a dart at a dartboard on his office wall.“Why didn’t you take a taxi? Or call me?”
I was going to take a taxi then I saw Merri Winslow running for the bus and impulsively hopped on behind her. Merri Winslow…
Merri was still a little apprehensive even after being reassured by Niko. She also didn’t want to see Danny thinking she had gone to his apartment. On the way to the Club she rehearsed what she would say when she saw Danny. Holding onto the door she took a deep breath then walked into the Club.
After walking to the staff room she opened her locker and put her purse inside. She took off her coat and scarf. As she hung them up one of the hostesses opened the locker next to her, “Hi Merri.”
“One of my customers asked you to play Unforgettable. He is kind of shy and didn’t want to ask you. Do you think you could? He gave me this to give you.” She had a stack of money in her hand and pushed it towards Merri.
“I can’t accept that much money. I am supposed to take requests from customers. Give it back to him and just tell him I would be happy to play any song he requests.”
The voluptuous woman put her hand on Merri’s shoulder. “He can afford it, believe me. Take it.”
“No. I wouldn’t feel right.”
Darlene closed the locker, “Don’t be foolish! It is a tip! Same as if he put it in your tip jar.” He really enjoys listening to you play the piano. Sometimes I don’t even have to serve him. He closes his eyes and falls asleep muttering your fucking name!
Darlene puts the stack of bills into her hand, “He will be happy you accepted it.”
“Well, okay. Be sure and tell him I said thank you. Or I could tell him myself if you point him out to me.”
“Like I said, he is shy. I will tell him.”
Merri opened her locker and put the money into her purse. I’m glad I came to work today. That looks like enough money to pay Myles tuition next semester.
Darlene had a strange smile as she left the staff room. Out of spite she kept half the money, Merri was an eyesore to her. Every time she served him he called out “Merri…Merri…” At first it bothered her but she got used to it. She loved and hated him at the same time because he was gentle and treated her well but was out of her reach.
She wrinkled her thin eyebrows together thinking about Merri. To think the heir to the Colton Group has such a pathetic side holding a secret crush on a girl that plays the piano for a bunch of drunks… I read he is going to marry Blair Pennington soon…I wonder if he will still come to the Club?
Merri walked out into the bar and sat at the piano. The first song she played was the one Darlene requested, Unforgettable…she smiled because that was one of the songs she played at the freshman talent show in High School. As she played she had a sweet smile on her face and upstairs, Zach Colton stood leaning on the railing outside his private room. Darlene walked over to him and held his arm, “Merri said to tell you thank you.”
His deep blue eyes flickered, “You didn’t tell her who gave the money did you?”
“Of course not. I know you are shy.”
Zach kissed her forehead, “You know me so well.”
Downstairs Alexi arrived with Bella and four bodyguards. He hesitated gazing at Merri then took long strides up the stairs. When he passed Zach Colton he saw him staring at Merri with an infatuated expression and for some reason he was unhappy.
He entered the private room then called Niko. “Don’t you have a private room with a piano?”
“I do. Right now it is in use.”
“Kick them out and send the woman downstairs to play for me.”
Niko usually will cater to Alexi but replied, “Can’t. There is a private party for Hector Sanchez’s birthday.”
“So what. Do I need to clear them out myself?”
“Be reasonable for fuck’s sake!” I don’t need to provoke that little shit. He will run and tell his father and there will be problems.
“Forget it. I will take care of it myself.”
“Alexi! I don’t need any trouble!”
Niko set down the glass of wine he was sampling then dashed up the stairs but was too late. Alexi had already burst into the room with his bodyguards. Men and women were half naked, their bodies tangled together on the couches. The tables were littered with empty wine bottles and traces of white powder.
Alexi waved the silver gun in his hand, “Party’s over. Get out.”
A pretty man tossed a woman whose breasts were exposed off his lap and stood up. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, his belt was undone and his pants unzipped. The drunken man’s his eyes were glassy and his pupils dilated. He wiped the white powder off his nose with his long slender finger then sauntered over to Alexi. Hector Sanchez snarled, “Do you know who I am?”
With the gun aimed at the man’s crotch Alexi sneered, “A piss ant that needs to leave if he wants to keep his little dick.”
The man’s bodyguards rushed forward but were subdued by Alexi’s men.
The man snorted, then laughed, “You wouldn’t dare unless you want your entire family exterminated.”
“Since I have no family, your threat doesn’t carry much weight. You have thirty seconds before I start shooting.”
Several half clothed men stumbled in a group towards the door and the handsome man raised his hand glaring at them. “You assholes take one more step towards the door I will kill you myself.”
Hector picked up a glass of wine on the table. He swirled it around while thinking where he had seen Alexi before. Suddenly his face lost color, “You..you are Alexi Baranov.”
Hector zipped his pants then staggered to the door of the private room. When Hector left everyone else followed.
Alexi turned to Niko. “Have the room cleaned, then send up the little piano player.”
“…” Aren’t you here with that Mayor’s daughter?