Hungry Wolf – Chapter One
Helena surveyed her new office in the back of the Naughty Wolf and pinched herself just to make sure it was all real.
Yep. She wasn’t dreaming and she was going to have a bruise on the back of her hand. That was okay. It wasn’t like the kind of guys who came to a gentleman’s club were looking at her hands. She’d take that mark all day, every day, twice on Sundays, if it meant this new life she’d built was real.
Kosta had given her this big fat promotion and it was exactly the break she needed. Sure, she made good money dancing. Despite what society and her ex might think, her plus-size ass was in high demand for lap dances among the gentleman who frequented the club. But getting promoted to manager meant she had a whole lot more job stability. She got a cut of the whole club’s take each night and that meant she could finally pay off the mountain of debt her jack-ass had left her with.
A gaggle of giggles sounded from the hallway breaking into the silence of the empty club. Helena frowned. She’d come in early for her first day as manager and hadn’t expected any of the girls to come in for hours.
“Helena, we brought champagne to celebrate your promotion.” The gaggle comprised of NAME, NAME, and NAME, stuck their heads in through the office door. NAME held an inexpensive bottle in the air and NAME waved some plastic flutes at her.
Despite her best efforts to be all business, her mouth turned up in a smile at them. The other dancers at the club were the closest she had to friends besides Heli. “Come on in girly-girls, and pour me a glass. I should have known you lot wouldn’t let me actually get any work done.”
“Really? Awesome.” The four ladies looked at each other like they were surprised Helena was down for celebrating. They poured into the room and plunked down on any flat surface.
The champagne cork popped and the wine and gossip flowed. “Of course we’re not going to let you work. You already work too hard.”
Helena took her glass of bubbles and took a sip to appease the girls. “Yeah, keeping your butts out of trouble.”
Krista turned her yoga-pants-clad butt cheek toward Helena and slapped it. “No, that’s what the bouncers are for. Has anyone else noticed how every single dude Kosta gets to work here is like ultra good-looking?”
Everyone nodded. NAME sighed and looked all dreamy. “Yeah, and built.”
“And hung like an elephant.” NAME waggled her eyebrows.
“Wait. How do you know that? Oooh. Are you sleeping with a bouncer?”
Helena let the girls have their fun for a few more minutes. She’d shoo them away in a bit so she could dig into the mountain of paperwork Kosta had left her. He was giving her a whole hell of a lot of responsibility and she intended to earn her keep. Neither Kosta or Heli were around as much anymore since they’d taken on the project of restoring the Inn at the Bay.
Out of all the employees of the Naughty Wolf, she alone, knew the real reason her boss and best friend spent all their time down at the Bay. Even these ladies with all their giggles and gossip had no idea the bouncers were all actually something so much more than well-built, sexy, hot tough guys.
So much more.
If she hadn’t seen Kosta turn into a wolf with her own eyes, she probably still wouldn’t believe it. Since that day it was so obvious to her which men in their little town had this beast inside of them and which didn’t. The wolf pack guys had this innate confidence, an internal compass that she found a little too enticing.
Which was a bad thing. She was not going there. Not with any man or wolf. She was perfectly fine on her own, thank you very much.
NAME topped off everyone’s glasses. “So, Helena. Now that you’re in charge, we have a favor to ask.”
Uh-oh. Helena looked around the circle and saw hopeful expectant faces. Crap. What did they want from her?
NAME laughed at her. “Don’t look at us like we’re going to ask you for your first born child. We just want to know if you would host Thanksgiving here this year. None of us have family around.”
“Or if we do, we aren’t spending an entire freaking day with them.” NAME rolled her eyes and then her head like spending time with her family induced a demonic possession or at least a painful kink in the neck.
NAME shrugged. “We want to be with the people here, they’re the family we choose, you know?”
Ah. Helena did know. While she did her best to keep men at arms length, the women here were more important to her than any imagined mom or sisters she’d never had. Getting kicked out of the house at seventeen didn’t exactly make her feel warm and fuzzy toward her puritanical father. Holidays were never very big in their house.
“You didn’t have to bribe me with champagne to ask that. I’m happy for you all to have Thanksgiving dinner here. I’ll even bring the pie.” It would be nice to share a meal and talk about what they were grateful for.
“And a date,” name said folding her arms.
Not this again. They were were eternally on her find a man. “What? That would be one more person to split the pie with.”
Suddenly all eyes were on her like she’d just fallen flat on her face on stage. “We never get to meet your boyfriends.”
“That because she doesn’t have any,” NAME jibed.
NAME, who was newer to their made-up little family, grimaced. “Oops. Sorry. We’d like to meet your girlfriend.”
NAME gave NAME a shove. “That’s not what I meant.”
Another woman stuck her head in the office. “What’s this I hear about a Thanksgiving dinner?”
“Selena, hi. We were just talking about having dinner here for the employees after we close on Thursday. You don’t think Kosta will mind, will he?”
“Well, I just love that idea. I was on my way here to see if anyone wanted to come up to my house, but this sounds like a whole lot more fun. You don’t mind if I crash, do you?”
What, like they were going to say no to the owner’s mother? “Of course, you can come too.”
“Oh goodie. I’ll tell the boys we’re having dinner here. Shall we do potluck style? I have just the man to set you up with for dinner, Helena. You’re going to simply love him. I already have several heritage turkeys thawing in the fridge. Lots of meat eaters in my family, you know. I’m sure Heli is going to want to go overboard on pies. Mmm. Pie. I’ll just set up a quick Google Doc for everyone to sign up on to say what their bringing. I’ll email to you all in a few minutes. I can’t wait to meet your young gentlemen, ladies. See you all on Thursday.” Selena walked back out of the office tapping away on her phone screen.
Mouths hung open and eyes wide as the five of them stared silently for a full minute until they heard the back door open and then close. NAME was the first one to regain her mouth to brain coordination. “Did we just get steamrolled into having Thanksgiving dinner with the Troikas?”
“Yep.” Helena took a big gulp of her champagne.
NAME automatically refilled the glass. “And did she say she’s setting you up on a blind date?”
Sigh. Helena drained every last dribble of the bubbles. “I was hoping I’d imagined that.”
Crap. Helena did not need a date. How the hell was she going to get out of this one?
She’d just have to develop a case of the clumsies and spill her pie all over his pants before dinner even started. No, pie was too precious, especially if it came from The Sleepy Folk’s pie shop. Gravy. Yeah. Brown gravy from sternum to crotch would send any fake date running.
It would be better if she could figure out a way to get out of the date in the first place though so the poor slob Selena wanted to set her up with didn’t have to suffer a mashed potato and gravy fate.
Did she feel a sore throat coming on?
No. No she did not. Ugh. Even if she did, Selena and the girls would probably come drag her out of bed, pretty her up, and drag her butt to the dinner anyway.
Oh, oh, oh. What if they didn’t close the club that night and the dinner had to be hosted somewhere else? But The Naughty Wolf was never open on Holidays. Kosta insisted the staff have time off and even usually gave them all bonuses. He wouldn’t keep it open just because Helena told him too, even if she was his new manager.
Fine. She was back to the gravy plan. She’d sign up to provide very hot, like boiling, gravy for the dinner and spill it right on any guy she didn’t recognize who walked through that door on Thursday evening.
“Helena,” NAME’s tone was much too close to parental. “What are you plotting?”
“Nothing. Only thinking about what dish to bring.” Which was one-hundred percent true.
“I think we’d better relegate you to rolls otherwise you’re liable to spill a perfectly good green bean casserole on some poor unsuspecting schmoe.”
“I would never…” She was so busted.
And totally screwed.
Not even in the fun way. Not that she even remembered what that felt like.
Whatever. She had a couple of days to figure out how to get out of this blind date. No way was she going to let her Friendsgiving be ruined by a random dude.