Josh immediately pictured Grace in that outfit—or at least tried. But his mind couldn’t fit those puzzle pieces together. As long as Josh had known her, Grace had never worn anything more revealing than a sundress.
Josh pushed his hands into his pockets and wandered toward the bar, where he leaned against a stool, searching every elf for Grace’s cute little strawberry-blonde bob. Booths lined the walls, individual tables took up the center of the club, and premium plush seating ringed the stage up front, where men called out to the women and slipped dollar bills into sparkling G-strings.
Several dancers milled among the patrons, chatting, touching, taking them by the hand and leading them up a spiral staircase to private rooms. Josh had never been in one, but he knew exactly what went on in there—guys were not shy about spilling every detail of their strip club encounters. The thought of Grace selling herself that way made him sick and doubled his determination to get to the bottom of whatever was going on with her.
“Hey, handsome. Haven’t seen you here before.”
Josh didn’t exactly startle at the seductive female voice behind his left shoulder, but his muscles went rigid. He turned to face a tiny woman with big brown eyes—and big, bouncy tits barely covered in a green velvet halter. She too wore a Santa-style hat, this one green to match the elf getup, sporting a big fluffy white fur ball at the point. She caressed the sleeve of Josh’s sport jacket with one hand, the other holding an empty tray against her hip.
“I’m Stephie.” She tipped her head and looked up at him through thick black lashes heavily coated with mascara. “Why don’t you buy me a drink while we get acquainted?”
A heavy, powdery scent wafted off her, along with her body heat. His nerve endings seemed to spread along the surface of his skin and sing to attention. Which meant, yeah, definitely too little sex in way too long, because she wasn’t his type at all.
“Actually…” He pulled a twenty from his pocket. “I’d appreciate it if you could point out Nicole for me.”
Her eyes lowered to the bill, then returned to his, a sly little smile on her lips. She slipped the twenty from Josh’s fingers with an enthusiastic “Easiest twenty I’ve made all night.”
She turned and pointed toward a shadowed corner where a group of rowdy younger men sat near the stage. A woman stood between two chairs, her back facing Josh. She was leaning forward, her hands braced on the men’s shoulders.
The woman who went by Nicole wore a one-shouldered, skintight black dress that clung to every luscious curve and barely covered her ass. Tanned legs stretched long and lean beneath the hem, made even longer—and sexier—by the sparkling spiked heels she wore. One side of the dress had diamond-shaped cutouts, showing a nice amount of evenly tanned skin all along her body, right down to her hip. The fabric gathered and was held together with clear rhinestones down her side. There was no way she was wearing anything underneath.
Josh didn’t recognize her as Grace. This woman had copper-colored hair falling in curls to the middle of her back. Right color—wrong length. And Grace had always been thin, with a more boyish straight-up-and-down figure. Josh would have noticed curves like those.
“In the black,” Stephie said. “Nicole. That’s who you’re looking for, right?”
“Don’t think that’s her,” he told Stephie. “But thanks.”
“Can I get you a drink?”
“Yes, please. Jack and Coke. Double would be good.”
“Be right back.”
When he slid his blazer off, his bad shoulder pulled, reminding him of the football incident. He tossed it over the back of the chair, and rolled up his sleeves before sitting, his eyes locked on the woman in black, waiting for a glimpse of her face. But his peripheral vision was picking up the brazenly erotic moves on the stage, and combined with the music, the lyrics, and the atmosphere, Josh’s body was definitely responding. His cock had grown thick, and the confinement of his slacks added pressure along his length. His heart was beating too fast, his body was too hot, his throat too tight.
The woman laughed, throwing her head back, and her hair—a shade darker than Grace’s, he was sure—fell down her spine like a sensual waterfall. A man came up beside her, and she turned and greeted him, exposing the stylishly and incredibly sexily cut side of her dress. Yep, she definitely had amazing curves. He tried to remember Grace wearing anything that would have accentuated curves but couldn’t. Tried to remember feeling them during the occasional hug—again, nothing.
Yes, he’d purposely been trying not to notice, considering she’d married his best buddy and fellow SEAL teammate, but still…