Authors: Ivy Sinclair
Silence that Sizzles
(Urban Dwellers #1)
By Ivy Sinclair
Copyright 2015 Shadow Creek Press
Cover design by Aria Tan
eBook edition, License notes
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It was shaping up to be one of those kinds of nights at the Urban Dwellers. Kyle Frost walked through the large room toward the bar and watched as his bouncers broke up the latest fight. He considered going to see if they needed help but then saw Richie shake his head at him. They had it, and they didn’t need him.
He felt a deep rooted sigh emerging from his chest. It was a Monday night, and it wasn’t even 10pm yet. The incident marked the third fight they’d had to break up that night. Of course, it was always that way around the time of the full moon, particularly for the wolf shifters who came into the club. Even Kyle, who was a bear shifter, felt the magnetic pull of the lunar cycle on occasion. It just brought out the animal in everyone.
As he made his way to the long bar that covered one whole wall on the other side of the dance floor, he caught the eye of Sophie, the head bartender. She was at the far end, but as he watched, she moved and grooved her way over to his part of the bar. A highball glass with a healthy serving of bourbon appeared in front of him without him saying anything at all. He knew there was a reason he kept Sophie around.
“How’s it going, boss?” Sophie asked.
“As if you have to ask,” Kyle said. He chucked back the shot of liquor in front of him and enjoyed the burn as it slid down his throat. Then he slammed the glass back down on the bar.
He caught a flicker of fire-engine red hair moving through the crowd out of the corner of his eye. He looked around to see where the person with the red hair went, but his eyes couldn’t pick out the person in the crowd. He mentally derided himself. The dim lighting and flickers of strobe lights made it nearly impossible to see more than a few feet in front of you unless you had shifter eyesight like Kyle did. That color of hair always reminded him of someone else from another time. A person that he hadn’t seen in seventeen years.
Seeing things that weren’t necessarily there happened to him all too often, ever since he’d gotten back from his tours in Afghanistan. He still wasn’t quite sure how serving in the military had translated to being qualified to run a nightclub. His learning curve had been steep. But his business partners, Eric Carmichael and Anthony Atwood, had insisted that it was his job to do so since the club was the most profitable business they owned together, and both of them already had full-time jobs. Kyle supposed he didn’t mind. There were a lot worse things to do with his time than watch over hordes of horny patrons who were all looking for a good time.
“It’s going be one of those nights,” Kyle said.
“Sure is,” Sophie said. Kyle hadn’t realized he’d said the words out loud. “But the thing about the nights when the moon is full is that the boys tip big time. Even better than on the weekends.”
Kyle took a moment to grudgingly admire Sophie’s outfit. It was a short, silver mini-dress that showed off all of her considerable assets. He was quite certain that Sophie was one of the reasons that Urban Dwellers did as well as it did. He even had the data to prove it. Sales receipts on Sophie’s nights off were usually down five to ten percent on average.
The woman was smart, beautiful, and she knew what she was doing. Overall revenue had increased exponentially once they put her in charge of the staff at all four of the club’s bars. The idea that Sophie was that good at her job gave Eric fits because he and Sophie used to go out, but even he had to reluctantly admit that she was an asset despite the fact that their relationship didn’t work out. Kyle himself wasn’t attracted to Sophie that way. She was more like a sister to him; a confidant who provided his liquor and didn’t ask too many questions.
That was because Kyle Frost had demons. He had lived with them as long as he could remember. It all stemmed from a time in his life that should have been the happiest, but it had turned into the worst. It was when he met Eric and Tony, and their friendship had begun. He had tried to chase the demons away by joining the Army and becoming the best soldier he could be. That was what his father had always wanted anyways. But his demons had followed him wherever he had gone. All he had to show for it now was fifteen years of military service that ended on the low note of a dishonorable discharge. That’s what the career path of serving his country had gotten him.
He stared at the drink in his hand. He supposed it had something to do with it. But he needed some type of medicinal remedy in order to be able to sleep at night. Kyle didn’t feel like he’d gotten a good night’s sleep in seventeen years. These were the thoughts that seemed to constantly chase through his mind.
He spotted the redhead in the crowd again. It reminded him of something, or more appropriately, someone. Someone that it felt like he had been trying to forget for a lifetime. Sophie kindly filled up his glass before he pushed off from the bar.
“You take care of yourself out there, boss,” Sophie said. She gave him a wink and a shimmy and then she walked away.
Kyle appreciated that Sophie hadn’t dug in any deeper. He knew that his moods set off a kind of wave of anxiety across his staff. Sophie was the perfect counter to it and read him like a book. She always knew when to try digging deeper and when to stay out of it. Most of the time she stayed out of it. Most people did- aside from Eric and Tony.
He saw a flash of red off to his left that seemed to illuminate that part of the dance floor. He knew the strobes of the dance lights and the way that they lit up and moved in time to the various song rhythms by heart. He’d studied them long enough over the last two years since he’d taken over management of the nightclub. The red beam was a difference. It wasn’t part of the usual pattern, so he followed it. He couldn’t help himself. It was something new and different in his structured, orderly world.
In the darkness across the dance floor, the flash of the strange red strobe illuminated a face framed in long tendrils of fire-engine red hair that caused Kyle’s heart to speed up. He moved across the dance floor so quickly that he knew he jostled several of the patrons, but he didn’t care. He reached the area where he had seen the face, but there was no one there. It had been a gaunt, pale face that he would have recognized anywhere. It was a face that haunted his dreams.
He felt a vibration in his pocket, and he pulled out his cell phone. He had a new text. It was a few simple words, but they sent a shot of fear through his body.
I know what you did.
Kyle stumbled across the dance floor and found an empty stool next to the railing of the dance floor. He sat down heavily and read the text again. Then his eyes scanned the crowd looking for the face, but it was nowhere to be seen. The strange red strobe light that had illuminated the face to him to begin with was gone. It felt as if someone was playing a cruel joke on him. The part that frightened him the most was that he had no way to be sure if what he was experiencing was real or a figment of his fucked up imagination.
The doctors labeled it PTSD. His paranoia, his anger, depression. All of it stemmed from incidents that he’d seen and experienced while he had been a soldier. Kyle knew better, though. Those demons had been with him before he had gone to Afghanistan. They had only manifested there.
He deleted the text. He didn’t know how or when he would’ve sent it to himself, but he had to consider that a possibility. It was a figment of his imagination brought forward by his subconscious meant to torture him yet again. He looked at the glass in his hand. It was empty. He realized he must have spilled the liquor inside in his hurry to track the imaginary face.
He sat there while the bodies writhed on the dance floor in front of him. It was a reality that was so different from his own. He tried to figure out what he wanted to do. He could go back to his office and stew in this latest incident, or he could go back to the bar and ask Sophie for another drink.
It was a tough call. Sophie was pretty free with the liquor, but she would eventually cut him off if she felt like he had had too much, boss or not. It didn’t help that she thought that he had had too much to drink in an evening more often than he would like. Of course, there was a bottle of Jack Daniels hidden in his desk drawer in his office. He got up, having decided that was what he was going to do when another face from his past appeared in front of him.
He thought for sure this was another figment dredged up by his imagination. The face was also familiar, but it held a half smile and kind of smirk at him. Rosy cheeks framed by long luscious brown hair that curled around her shoulders. A trim figure dressed in a seemingly conservative black dress, at least until he noticed the way it snuggly hugged every luscious curve. The outfit was completed with a pair of high-heels that brought her height practically to his chin. He’d never seen her in a getup like that, and his body instantly responded.
“Lieutenant Frost,” she said.
The words hit his ears, and that’s when he decided that it had to be real. This wasn’t a figment conjured up from his imagination like the face earlier. He had to accept that she was there, real and in the flesh. Kelly Malone stood in front of him.
It was as if his past and his present were colliding, and Kyle didn’t know what to make of it.
“It’s Kyle now. Just Kyle. What are you doing here?” The question came out harsh and wrong even to his ears. He saw Kelly’s wince and instantly regretted it. But it had never been in his nature to be soft with her. It was everything he could do to keep his hands off of her when he had been around her before.
“It’s nice to see you too. It’s been a long time,” she said speaking loud enough that he could hear her over the music. They looked at each other in silence for what seemed like forever. Then she sighed. “I guess I’ll have to get right down to business then.”
Kyle was silent. He wasn’t sure how to respond to her presence in his club. It was jarring and wrong for how he felt about his life. Everything that Kelly represented was the past that he had tried for so long to keep closed away. It was the past that he tried to drink away and forget. Yet here she stood, the beautiful representation and embodiment of the one good thing worth remembering; the one shining beacon of light that he didn’t really want to forget.
Kyle was a realist. He always had been and perhaps that was part of the reason that he drove his father crazy. Kyle didn’t see the positive side of things. He only knew what he thought to be right and true. Perhaps that’s why what happened seventeen years ago went so against the grain of his nature, and he’d never be able to forget it.
“I’m sorry. You being here is just a surprise. I guess I should say welcome to the club.” He tried to put on his cordial businessman face now. It was one he had adapted to better than he ever expected. He was someone different now than the man she had known back then. Perhaps the man he was now was someone that she could be interested in in the way that he’d always been interested in her. That thought was exciting to him.
But then his realist side started to speak in his mind yet again telling him that he had a screw loose to get his hopes up for anything like that. Kelly was human, and he wasn’t. He had always been something a little bit more, a little bit more different, a little bit more violent, a little bit more animalistic. Those were all qualities that he was sure a woman like Kelly would never want from a man in her life.
He had watched her back then when she didn’t know he was watching. She had been neat, tidy, and orderly in everything that she did. That was something he could appreciate. But a woman who liked structure and order and for everything to be neatly in its place surely would not be attracted to a man like him. On the outside, Kyle was all of those things, but once someone scratched beneath the surface, everything went to hell.
“How about buying a girl a drink?” she asked.
That seemed like safe, neutral territory, “I can do that. I know people.” Kyle gave her an easy grin that belied how he felt beneath the surface. He took her elbow and started to guide her across the dance floor. He had never been close to her like this. In their previous interactions, she had always been the one touching him; poking, prodding, making notes on her clipboard that would get tucked away in his file. He had enjoyed those moments and coveted them. He kept them tucked away in a lockbox in his mind that he only allowed himself to visit every so often. Letting those memories in was like torture and pleasure all wrapped into one.
Kyle waved Sophie over as they approached the bar. “Sophie! Get this lady whatever she wants. It’s on the house.”
Sophie’s eyebrows raised at his exclamation. He could read immediately what she was thinking. Sophie was probably the only person on the planet who knew him almost as well as he knew himself, and that scared the shit out of him. “What can I get you, friend of Kyle’s?” Sophie asked Kelly as she leaned on the bar.
Kyle thought for a moment that he had made a mistake by bringing Kelly to Sophie’s station. Sophie’s over-the-top sexual persona intimidated more than just the men that came into Urban Dwellers. He relaxed as he saw Kelly’s easy smile as she screwed up her nose as if giving the simple question far more thought than it required. “A glass of Sauvignon Blanc please.”
“You got it.” Sophie gave her a wink and a grin and then turned to get the drink. Kelly leaned against the bar and gave Kyle a long, hard look. It was a look that Kyle wasn’t unaccustomed to. She had studied him, poked him, prodded him, asked him uncomfortable questions, and basically was a huge pain in his ass for six months four years ago. Then she disappeared without so much as a goodbye, not that they had a relationship that warranted the courtesy. He never heard why she had left.