Barely Breathing

Barely Breathing by Brenda Rothert


MY BARTENDER STARED A SECOND too long at a woman’s big tits and the drink he was pouring overflowed onto the bar. He found a towel under the counter, wiped the spill up and then handed the drink to a waitress, sloshing more liquid out of the glass on the way. She glared at him and I made my move.

“You’re the worst f*ckin’ excuse for a bartender I’ve ever seen,” I snapped at him. “Who the f*ck hired you?”

“Uh . . . Mr. Winters did.” His eyes widened with fear as he looked up at me. I was used to this reaction.

“Figures. He’s too damn soft. You pour about as smooth as a teenage kid jerks off,” I growled. “Get the f*ck outta my sight and don’t come back.”

He ducked and ran. I pushed through the group of servers and customers and got behind the bar. Orders were shouted at me as I poured, mixed and shook my way into catching up the backlog.

At Six, the club I was part owner of, we served light food, but drinks were our main fare. And at a place with a line down our New York City block every night of the week, we couldn’t afford to hire shitty bartenders.

By the time I was caught up and one of the servers came back to relieve me behind the bar, I had a line of sweat across my brow. I wiped the sleeve of my white t-shirt across it and stormed across the floor of the club.

The good thing about being me was not even having to say excuse me. When people saw me coming, they f*cking moved. As the crowd on the dance floor parted, I made my way through and headed upstairs to Jeff’s office.

I pushed open the door, yelling at Jeff before I’d even entered the room. “Where the f*ck did you find that bartend—”

Jeff’s dick flopped out of the mouth of the woman on her knees in front of him as she gave me a surprised look. Jeff scowled at me.

“Jesus, Kane, you heard of knocking?” he barked.

I glared at him. “You heard of not getting head from a waitress when we’ve got a full house down there?”

Amanda bowed her head and scooted back. Jeff, who was leaning against the edge of his desk with his suit pants around his ankles, wove a hand into her hair and eased her back toward him.

“Come back later, Kane,” he said. “I’ll be able to give you my full attention then.”

“No need. I just fired that piece of shit bartender you hired.”

“Again? Dammit, that’s the third one in a month.”

“Third one who sucked ass. And I didn’t fire the first one, she quit.”

“After you said Helen Keller could pour better than her.”

I stared at the dark wood door frame of his office and shrugged. “Truth hurts, man. I’m gonna walk the grounds.”

“Just don’t fire any bouncers. We need all of ‘em for that private party this weekend.” He groaned and I looked over. Amanda was already back to bobbing up and down his rod.

I sighed and headed back to the stairway. Sure as hell wasn’t the first time I’d seen Jeff get a blowjob. We’d been friends for almost ten years, and we’d had some wild times before settling down in New York to open Six with four silent partners.

And now, almost a year in, the club was my life. I was here at two every afternoon to prepare for open and head up a floor meeting for the staff. Rarely did I leave before three AM.

This place was my only shot. I had to give it my all in order to sleep at night. Or in my case, in the morning when I dragged my ass in from work. I didn’t drink, so it was never that I was hungover. The long hours of overseeing club operations seven days a week just got to me sometimes. Jeff saw to the books and HR, and I took care of everything that went down on the floor.

“Kane,” a male voice called as I got to the bottom of the stairs that led to the main level of Six. One of our hosts, Dominic, was rushing toward me. “That private party in the suite upstairs brought in some packaged alcohol. What should I do?”

“Kick em’ out.”

“Yeah, but it’s—”

“I don’t give a f*ck if it’s the president.” I looked down at him. “It’s in the contract they signed. No outside alcohol. You need me to do it?”

He shook his head. “No, sir. I can handle it.”

I nodded my approval. Dominic was a college student who busted his ass here and pulled good grades. He was a good kid. Funny how I saw him as a kid when he was twenty-two and I was thirty-four. But I’d lived a hell of a lot in my years on this Earth. A little too much at times.

My next stop was the kitchen, where I watched the staff silently from a corner. I made sure the food was leaving the shelf and heading to customers table shortly after being plated. We only served light food to most of our customers. Those in our VIP rooms could get anything their rich little hearts desired, though, whether it was a perfectly grilled steak or a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. We went out of our way to make Six a cut above the rest.

The sound of muffled, angry male voices caught my ear and I turned for the kitchen’s swinging door. I’d just gotten it open when I heard glass shattering. Motherf*cker. I wasn’t about to allow a bar fight in my upscale club.

A crowd was clustered around a table near the bar and I pushed my way through. A couple of frat boys were throwing punches at each other and a third one held a broken beer bottle up, trying to hold off two more pimpled brats.

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