Sneak peeks

THIS or THAT…
an enemies-to-lovers MM romance.
Release June 3.

Sometimes, a kiss can knock you out faster than a blow to the head, rendering you unable to think straight.

TROY

Chapter 1

I WALK THE LINE

My fist connects with the bastard’s jaw, and even the deafening music can’t hide the resulting crack.

Damn, that felt liberating!

I heave a shaky breath, ignoring the pain that radiates from the impact, and wiggle my fisted hand to take the edge off.

Losing his balance, he falls backwards and his muscular body skids across the VIP room’s luxurious leather couch. The cartoonish drooping mouths and wide eyes sported by his friends are priceless. Shock. Amusement. Indignation.

“Don’t you dare treat my friend like that!” I warn.

Rubbing his cheek, he glowers at me. His dark green eyes capture my chocolate ones, but I remain rooted.

“Go back to your barn, cowboy,” he snarls before a smirk forms on his handsome face. Jerk! His unfocused eyes betray his level of intoxication that probably—or hopefully?—caused his misconduct… unless he’s the typical entitled clientele that frequents this Parisian club. Damn, I despise abusive people, especially when under the influence!

“Troy?” A feminine voice tears me from my fabricated reaction. “Earth to Troy?”

Because, of course, acting on that fantasy wouldn’t be clever. Because, of course, hitting a customer would get me fired from this bartending job and jeopardize my precarious finances. Because, of course, my coworker, Anna, can handle herself just fine around intoxicated pricks like this one. But witnessing their encounter from afar sent a shot of adrenaline. His good looks are a fact, not my opinion. Anyone could attest to that, no matter their sexual orientation. Still, gorgeous or not, I can’t stand anyone who doesn’t fight fair. It brings back too many childhood memories.

Oblivious to my inner conflict, Anna’s fingertips brush the knuckles of my clenched hand, making my shoulders relax and my body shiver. She’s not prone to PDA, but when our eyes locked seconds ago, she read the anger that fueled my fantasy. A fantasy where the guy addressed me in his perfect English accent, which would be par for the course, considering the number of tourists that this exclusive venue attracts. A fantasy where the guy commented on my unmistakable hat that my boss insists I wear after foolishly donning it during my interview. A fantasy where the guy noticed more than the aforementioned hat… 

“You’ve zoned out again.”

Biting my lower lip with my front teeth, I nod absentmindedly, my eyes on hers, and I’m at a loss for words. It’s frightening how she can read me like an open book. What a bummer that there’s no attraction there, since we’re compatible on so many other levels. Movies: Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan are the best. Books: Jim Harrison and Thomas Harris are our favorites. Music: electro, since she unfortunately loathes country.

“What’s up with you? You’ve been doing that much more lately.” I shrug. Instead of supplying an explanation, I share the visual that my mind created. In turn, a hearty peal of laughter erupts from her chest.

“How many times do we need to have this conversation? It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last, Troy.” Her upturned lips warm my heart. She’s right, but I can’t wrap my head around it. “What did you expect?” Her big blue eyes shoot me a flippant look. “We work in a club. People dance. People drink. People touch.” She pats my toned bicep as she wanders off to attend to other patrons.

Before she’s out of earshot, I propose, “Let me handle that table for now, okay?”

Her mane of dark curls bounces in agreement as she departs.

We tend to the groups that crowd the trendy venue, tuning the electro music out, no matter how much we love it. Otherwise, the volume would make it impossible to focus on the task at hand.

“By the way, they ordered Dom Pérignon.” She winks as she passes me by.

“What? When were you gonna tell me?” She should have communicated this when we discussed my virtual punch, not ten minutes later!

She stops in her tracks, turns my way, and emphasizes the first word playfully. “Now is a good time. That hot guy and his grabby hands deserved to cool off a bit. His looks are no excuse!” she declares as she arrives at my side.

As much as I agree with her, clients can’t wait. That isn’t part of the deal, especially not here. No matter how obnoxious some of them are, we can’t let our feelings interfere. I frown. He must have pissed her off more than she let on for her to behave like this.

Her palm rests on my right elbow over my black long-sleeved T-shirt. Is she trying to channel my growing irritation? At this guy. At the situation. At her. “I’ll grab the champagne glasses from the back.” She raises her voice to be heard over the music. “François will get the Dom for you.” She winks at her innuendo and carries on in an even tone. “We’ll go together in a minute, okay?”

I grumble my reply, unconvinced. I know the drill, though. Ice in the giant bucket. A napkin to wrap around the neck of the bottle. My mind sets my body in motion.

With that, she flees without further notice. My shoulders tense for no apparent reason. Granted, I pride myself on being independent and despise receiving orders, except from François because he’s our boss. But then again, Anna didn’t boss me around; she simply suggested that we get moving and finally attend to the whim of wasted rich kids… Kids, who might very well be nearing thirty, so older than me by a few years. Kids, who obviously take their privileged life for granted, like I did over a decade ago. Kids, who will be as despicable as adults as they are now. Thank God, the club doesn’t attract many of those. 

Why am I so worked-up? My imaginary assault? Anna’s surprising behavior? Channing’s smirk?

No, this guy and I aren’t on a first-name basis and never will be. The nickname’s my own doing because, trust me, he’s Channing Tatum’s spitting image, and fuck, did my dick get the message when he and his snooty friends entered the place. His broad frame. His sex-on-legs demeanor. His gorgeous face. All Channing, and the jackass is well aware of the resemblance. As he is of the fact that all eyes were on him, including mine. I doubt that he registered that my attraction to him was more sexual than Channing-related. How could he? In his eyes, I’m only the help. Period… And now, thanks to the way he treated Anna, I know how he views the staff. Disposable goods. Must be what triggered my fictitious punch to his smug face.

“You’re lost in your head again. Come on.”

I shake my head to get back to reality and round the bar with the heavy bucket in hand. Making sure she’s securely holding the tray and none of the ten glasses risk falling, Anna and I sidestep tables and patrons on our way to the back of the club where the secluded room is situated, separated from the main room by a one-way mirror. In order to provide more privacy, these guests have a personal dance floor.

I hold the VIP room door so that she can deposit the tray on the table without difficulty. The second she straightens her posture and looks my way, Channing mumbles something incoherent, attesting to his drunken state. That makes me question why they ordered three more bottles. Clearly, they’ve already had more than enough.

Damn, he irritates me!

I plaster a fake smile on my face in return, and my eyes don’t leave his as I make quick work of the cork and start pouring the champagne. The liquid effervesces and that’s the moment that Channing chooses to, yet again, grope my coworker’s plump ass.

What the hell?

My cheeks heat, and I’m thankful that the dim light hides my glare. My blood boils as I debate whether to act on my earlier fantasy.

“Nah, that wouldn’t be smart,” I scold myself between gritted teeth. I refuse to allow this to go unpunished and resolve to show Channing the error of his ways. For now, I have one word left.

War.