House Calls:Callaghan Brothers, Book 3(6)

By: Abbie Zanders

She lost herself in the music, in the lights, in their blatant appreciation. For a little while, she allowed herself to become someone else, someone sexy and desirable, someone without worry or fear. Before she knew it, she was on her last song. With a deep-seated feeling of satisfaction, Maggie worked her way back up to the stage for her grand finale, her movements serpentine and hypnotic.

Her heart pounded in excitement, her mind and heart freer than it had been in a very long time. She felt wonderful as she gave her final bow to their appreciative applause, her steps light as she walked out of sight. Sherri was already taking her place back on stage, the music transitioning into something hard and sexy.

Maggie felt like her body was filled with light. Dancing in front of those men had been one of the most exhilarating – and terrifying - things she’d ever done. She had let herself go, mind, body and spirit, freed by her costume and mask, and they had been enraptured. It was a feeling she would remember for a long time. And if Sherri asked her to do this again, she realized, she probably would.

At least until her mask shifted and she stepped off the back of the stage. Then the trance was broken and she tumbled down, all grace forgotten as she landed face-first against one of the small bar tables pushed back there in storage.

Lights exploded behind her eyes with the impact. Her body followed behind, crumpling unnaturally as she rolled off the corner and hit the floor with a resounding thud. As if from far away she heard deep rumbling applause. Or maybe it was thunder.

Thunder was good, she decided, her head swimming deliriously. Maybe it would bring with it cool rain to ease some of the white-hot pain across her face.

She cried out when someone tried to turn her over, the sound not unlike the keen of a wounded animal. Instinctively she curled herself into a ball to make a smaller target, though for the life of her she couldn’t fathom why someone was trying to hurt her.

The music was still playing, the vibrations of the bass were hammering into her head like a sledgehammer. Someone was talking, but it sounded muffled, wrong. A bright light shone in her eyes and she tried to bat it away. Then she had the feeling of movement, right before the blackness claimed her.

Chapter Three

Michael was enthralled, unable to take his eyes off the woman. He was quite sure they hadn’t met before; he definitely would have remembered the exotic-looking redhead. She hadn’t even noticed him behind the bar, which gave him a chance to study her. Not old, but she was no kid. A full, lush figure. And totally out of her element – she looked scared stiff.

And then she’d spoken, and he knew he had been right. Her voice was soft and gentle, completely at odds with the lusty harem girl costume.

All traces of uncertainty vanished, though, when she took the floor. There was no hesitation in her movements, just sensual, hypnotic beauty. He barely moved during her entire performance, unwilling to turn away even for a moment.

“Her name is Maggie,” Sherri said, when she joined him at the bar. Michael’s rapt attention hadn’t escaped her. “Maggie Flynn.”

“She’s incredible.”

“Yeah, she is, isn’t she?” Sherri said thoughtfully as Maggie worked her way around the room. “This will be good for her,” she mused.

“Yeah, why’s that?”

Sherri fingered the glass Michael had placed before her. “She has no self-confidence.”

Michael looked again at the beautiful woman dancing with total abandon, casting a spell over all of them, then tore his eyes away to cast Sherri a doubtful look.

“No, I’m serious. She’s become a total recluse ever since...” she stopped mid-sentence, clamping her lips together.

“Since...?” he coaxed.

Sherri shook her head. “Forget I said anything. Mags would be mortified if she knew I said anything.”

“I won’t tell.” Michael pinned her with those hypnotic blue eyes, leaned in a little closer, practically whispering the words as if they would be sharing an intimate secret. It was beneath him, he knew, to manipulate her like this. He usually left that kind of thing to his brothers. But something about the redhead intrigued him. He wanted to know more.

Sherri stared into his eyes, transfixed, then shook herself free with a little extra effort. “Oh no, you don’t,” she chided. “If you want to know, you find out for yourself.”