Club 22 (Hades #3) - Tate James

Two months ago…

Irritation rippled through me as I glanced down at my watch. I'd been lurking around the bar for way too long already, yet she still hadn't emerged from her office. Was she okay in there?

As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I shook it away. Of course she was okay. She was Hades, more than fucking capable of handling herself if a bunch of mouthy upstarts wanted to test her dominance.

I glanced at my watch again. Shit. Not even a minute since the last time I checked it.

"Can I get you another drink, Cass?" the pretty, young bartender, Sara, asked me with a heavy bat of her false lashes. She knew she wasn't my type, but it didn't stop her flirting.

I shook my head, declining, then finished the last mouthful of my beer. I'd hung around long enough that I was starting to draw attention, and that sure as fuck wasn't going to do me any favors. And for what? To feed my sick obsession with seeing a woman too guarded, too beautiful, and too damn untouchable to ever be mine.

With a self-disgusted grunt, I slid off my barstool with every intention of leaving the club. Yet, as if on autopilot, my feet carried me toward the narrow staircase that would lead up to the mezzanine level where I knew Hades kept her office. Where I'd caught a flash of her blazing red hair disappear hours ago with a handful of Timberwolf enforcers trailing behind like naughty puppies.

"Boss is in a meeting," the stern-faced, muscle-bound Timberwolf bouncer announced as he stepped in front of me before I reached the first step. "Doesn't wanna be disturbed."

I narrowed my eyes, picturing my fist slamming into this steroid-pumped fucker's face. Vividly imagining the way his cartilage would crunch under my knuckles and the hot, wet spray of blood from his nose. But shit, he was just doing his job. So I rubbed a hand over my jaw, thinking, then gave a small nod of understanding.

"I'll swing back later, then." Even though I really shouldn't. I had no good reason to request a face-to-face with Hades. None. Except that I just wanted to see her. It felt like I hadn't seen her in weeks, even though we'd interacted in a professional capacity plenty. It was different under the eyes of rivals, though. I couldn't just watch her like I'd grown so addicted to doing—not with that punk-ass bitch Skate watching my every move.

Reluctantly, I forced myself to turn away, but the bouncer called out again.

"Hold up, Reaper." His gruff voice made me pause and tilt my head back toward him. His finger was to his ear, holding his radio earpiece in place as he listened to something. Then he raised the microphone attached to the wire and muttered a few words into it before flicking his gaze up to mine. "Boss said to send you up. She just finished her meeting."

This was undoubtedly a bad idea, but I just brushed past him and started up the stairs, nonetheless. Fuck me, I needed to turn around, walk out of the damn club, and call up a sure thing to fuck away all this godforsaken tension. But no. No, I just had to torture myself further.

The Timberwolf enforcers passed me in the short corridor that housed the administration offices, and none of their gazes were friendly. Hell, they were downright hostile, but it didn't faze me in the least. There was only one person in the state who intimidated me, and it was none of these testosterone-soaked bastards.

A second after I passed them, they were gone from my mind as I spotted the door to Hades’s office slightly ajar. Goddamn if my pulse didn't kick up a gear.

Still, I kept my expression neutral and my posture relaxed. No matter how badly I wanted to do filthy things to the woman in that office, she was still a threat. I'd seen what she was capable of when pushed and knew better than to underestimate her. So I paused and tapped politely at her door to announce myself.

Her eyes swept up slowly, clearly having already known I was there before I knocked, and her gaze was as unreadable as ever when it met mine.

"Cass," she said in that hard-edged voice of hers. I ached to hear her speak to me without the carefully built fortress guarding her every fucking thought. "I didn't know we had a meeting planned."

Neither did I, and yet here I am.

I just