6th Street Bridge in Pittsburgh. All credit belongs to michaelmccumber.com
Song I listened to for this chapter: Haven’t Met You Yet, by Michael Buble
Hatter stops at the edge of the dance floor and waits for Alice to catch up. He puts his hand gently on the small of her back to lead her to the bar and to… well, he wants the guys giving her looks to know she is with him. It may only be temporary —not that they needed to know that— but he is working on it becoming something more.
Alice follows as closely as she can to Hatter until they clear the dance floor. She almost pauses when he stops but then he puts his hand on the small of her back and indicates the path they are to go down. His warm hand gives her goosebumps and she wonders at the fast reaction she is having to him. Since she’s been going out these past few years, however, she’s found that these feelings, on her side or the guy’s, never seem to last. He will grow bored of her or be scared off by her job. Or worst, he will use her; one had tried to do that. She keeps a close grip on her feelings thinking about that one guy. Alice decides she will enjoy these pleasant sensations until they go their separate ways, as her exes normally do.
Hatter goes to the end of bar and pulls out a chair for her. He has chosen high bar chairs in every style imaginable that he can find in order to give the bar the proper tea table look. Right now, he is really glad he did because now he can talk with her without possibly being bugged by the staff. But if he finds one of his bouncers, well, he needs to have a word with them. There is no excuse for any lady to deal with that type of behavior in his club. And to have it be Alice! He grips the chair he is holding out for her hard. She looked so fragile and frightened when that guy had grabbed her, Hatter realizes he hadn’t even thought before he acted when he saw the look on her face.
Alice is shocked and pleased when he pulls out a chair for her. As she sits, she notices that they are at the end of the bar, with the wall on one side of her and him on the other. She isn’t really worried, but either he is planning something or he just picked somewhere he can protect her. The latter thought makes her smile and she thanks him again.
“Well, me mum would hav’ me hide if she found out that I was not bein’ a gentleman to the ladies.” Hatter smirks at her as she laughs. Alice has a pleasant laugh that warms him.
“Well, you can let your ‘mum’ know that you are being quite the gentleman to me. It’s kind of pleasant to find out there are gentlemen still around. And especially in clubs!” Alice is chuckling and finding herself being quite truthful with him, which pleases her since she really hates to play the flirting game.
Hatter likes her forthrightness but frowns at her comment. “I apologize for that bloody git-“
Alice interrupts him. “Hatter, it isn’t your fault. He planned that out a little too well. Thank you again for helping me.” She shivers and he notices.
He shrugs out of his brown leather jacket and puts it around her shoulders. “Here this may help. The club is cold fer the dancers and drinkers.”
Alice is shocked again by his manners. But before she can protest, she realizes that his coat is warm and she really is cold, probably a slight case of shock at her close call. “Thank you,” she quietly says.
“Yer welcome. So… Now on to the awkward questions that normally arise at this time.” Hatter grins at her.
Alice laughs in enjoyment at this one – he is smooth, she’ll give him that! “Hmm, let’s see, you already know my name and that I am here with my friends. The next? Either what drink do I like, my sign, or am I single? Which one was it?” She grins at him, waiting on his answer.
All of them! Hatter’s smirk grows wider and his dimples come out. He really likes the spirit of this one. He turns and signals one of the bartenders, who acknowledges him with a nod, but before Hatter can turn his attention back to Alice, he notices the bartender doing a double take at her. He frowns but tucks it away in the back of his head. That takes care of the drink…
“Well, I be guessing you’re either single or I will be having a jealous boyfriend on me back here shortly. And yer sign?” He lets a puzzled look cross his face, “Why I be wanting that?”
Alice is enjoying this so much. “Hmm that just leaves the drink and then I am out of the lines I have been given through the years.”
The bartender walks down to give Alice and Hatter their drinks. Alice turns in shock when she notices the drink being set in front of her is the same that she had liked from upstairs. Looking up, she recognizes the guy behind the bar. “Scott! What a pleasant surprise to find you here!”
Scott smiles at her. “Yep, I helped Sam plan this outing for you, hope you enjoyed yourself and will come back here more often.”
Hatter is frowning at Scott as he lightly flirts with Alice. Calm yerself down Hatter! She’s not yers yet. And it looks like ya may be owing Scott here a favor if he got her to come ‘ere! Hatter clears his throat softly.
Alice looks at him and smiles. “Scott is one of my friend Sam’s close friends. He has come along a couple of times to help us out when we all want is to have fun and not deal with guys.” She smiles at Scott.
Hatter realizes that while Scott may have feelings for Alice, she doesn’t return them. He relaxes. “Scott here is one of me best bartenders. I am glad that he got ya to come in, and I will make sure that you and your mates are on the VIP list from now on. That being if you still want to come here after that bloody scutted git.”
At first, Alice wonders how he could make them permanent VIP’s in this club but then all the pieces fall into place: this Hatter beside her is the Hatter that Leigh and Sam had told her about earlier. The DJ. The cute DJ. Her heart drops a little realizing that this whole meeting must mean nothing to him. She is just one in a long string of girls to him. She should have known.
Hatter is watching her face and catches the slight look of dismay. He is then shocked when she straightens and goes to take the jacket off. “Alice, what’s wrong?”
Alice looks at him and is surprised to see the genuine look of confusion on his face. “I am sorry, I didn’t realize who you were. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, so I am going to head out.”
Hatter stares at her. Wrong idea? Bloody ‘ell what is she speaking about? He decides to continue their honesty with each other and asks, “Alice, what idea do you think I have?”
Alice sighs, why is he making this hard? And why is her head starting to pound so much? “The idea that I may be one of many girls you have around.”
Before she can say anything a look of understanding crosses his face. He glances at Scott as if to say ‘do you believe her?’ “Alice, I don’t have any girls hangin’ around. Ask me mate Scott here.”
Scott nods reluctantly, he can see how the cards are falling here, but he knows Hatter will treat Alice right. And, after these many years, he knows he isn’t going to get her attention. The best he can do is what he has been doing, being like a brother to her. And, no matter what others think, Scott has seen the way Hatter brushes the girls off, not unkindly, but in a manner that leaves no doubt that he is not interested. He treats the staff like family and Scott saw for himself, from one of the cameras below the bar, Hatter defending Alice earlier.
Alice stares at Scott in shock when he verifies Hatter to her. Scott is protective of her and acts like a brother to her and the girls. He is usually the one that talks her out of the relationships she talks herself into, especially when she was younger, wanting to find love.
Hatter watches her and is actually pleased that Scott has helped him. “Alice, I honestly can say you have intrigued me and I will enjoy getting to know you better. This may be a one time meeting, or one of many, I will leave that up to you. If you want to leave, please wait here with Scott and let me get you a ride home. That bloody git is still here and I don’t want you to have to deal with him.” He watches her eyes, hoping he isn’t making a huge mistake and that it will all turn out well in the end. He is willing to put in the effort to make it work, but he wants to give her the choices.
Alice is thinking it all through. She is tired, her head is starting to pound even worse, and… she really wants to get to know Hatter better. He intrigues her. She pulls the jacket closer to her and softly tells him, “If you have somewhere we can go to talk, somewhere with aspirin, I think I would like to know you a little better. Plus, you are right, that, umm, how did you so eloquently put it, that ‘bloody scut’? worries me quite frankly.”
Hatter relaxes and smiles. “I have aspirin and the office up top is quieter than here. Warmer, too.” He looks at her closer and then glances at Scott. He realizes now what he should have realized earlier: she is in shock. Hatter keeps a tight rein on his temper and promises to himself to give a thorough talking-to to his staff. Scott is looking at her and nods, leaving to get the office set up with a blanket and some real tea to help Alice. He thinks of something and stops, turns around and signals Hatter. He will let her friends know she is alright and take care of that for him. Hatter nods and makes a note to give Scott’s performance a thorough look through and see how he can reward him.
“Alice.” She has closed her eyes and opens them quickly to see Hatter standing next to her with his hand held out to her. She glances up at him and puts her hand in his. He relaxes some and helps her stand, leading her towards the door to the upstairs area. Walking through the door, he notices the fatigue on her face and picks her up bridal style. She lightly moans and creases her forehead in pain. He gets a little more worried and quickly, but gently, moves up to his office.
Scott opens the door and frowns down at Alice. He looks up at Hatter. “Did he slip her something?”
Hatter frowns and can’t think of when he could have. “Was the normal array of drinks provided them at their table?”
Scott frowns, “Yes, but Alice ordered down, as she normally does, and I made her drink, then sent it up.”
Hatter thinks back to how well planned out the incident on the floor had been. “Bloody ‘ell in a handbasket!” He looks angry as he tenderly holds the girl, nay Lady, in his arms. “Scott, get down to the rest of her mates and make sure they are ok. Find one of the bouncers and have them stay with them until they leave, and find someone you trust to work the bar on the top for them. I didn’t open it per yer request, but I think it would have been safer for them if I would have just put you up there.” He closes his eyes thinking of how many problems that scum licking imbecile may have gotten his club and Alice into. He walks over to his cream leather couch and gently places her on it. He stares down at the woman that has completely captured him. He knows it could have happened to him at any time, but it seems like the fates are laughing at him for this situation.
Scott looks at him and realizes his boss must have fallen hard. He softly tells him, “Hatter, Alice liked you up to when she thought she was to be part of a harem. Alice is work though. She is well worth it, but you will have to work hard to make you guys work. You will need patience and time. Let me know if you need me for anything, and get some of that tea you swear by in her.” Hatter nods and Scott goes down to check on the rest of their friends.
Hatter stares down at Alice, grabs the tea service from his desk and brings it to her. He pours her a glass and then crouches down, softly calling her name. “Alice. I need you to drink some of this tea.”
Alice can barely stay awake. She is aware this is not normal… What is going on? She hears Scott telling someone something about her, but she can barely hear through the pounding in her head. Next thing she hears is her name being said softly and something about tea? She is rather thirsty…
She groans and then opens one eye, which she quickly closes against the glare. She hears some cussing and the bright light is gone. Opening the eye again, she sees a soft glowing light from the ceiling and then notices Hatter looking at her with worry.
“Alice, I need you to drink some of this. If this doesn’t work then I am taking you to a hospital. I think that… that… Bloody hell. That scum licker may have slipped you something.”
Hatter is getting even more worried about Alice. And, he is mad at himself; she mentioned the headache and yet he had had a bright light shining down on her. He has turned it off now though, just leaving the ambient lighting on, and she seems to be able to handle that.
Alice takes the tea glass and drinks the contents. She made a face and softly asks, “Why does anything good for you taste so bad?” Hatter laughs weakly as she makes another face and finishes the tea. He takes the glass from her and sits himself on his coffee table, watching her. He notices when the headache fades away since her forehead smooths and soon he sees she is sleeping. He sighs in relief; maybe it is just shock.
There is a soft knock on his office door and Scott comes back in with the two ladies that had been on the dance floor with Alice earlier.
“We sent the other girls home but we needed to make sure Alice is okay,” the blonde tells him. “And, well we wanted to meet you. Scott here has vouched for you, but well-“
Hatter interrupts her gently, not wanting to make a friend of Alice’s mad but also not wanting to wake Alice, “You had to see it with your eyes. I don’t know if he did give her something, but she is sleeping normally now. I was just going to get Scott and have a car take her home. But I would greatly appreciate it if someone could stay with her?”
Sam looks at the man and can see Scott has called it like normal – this guy has feelings for Alice and unlike most men, he is comfortable and secure in dealing with them. “Scott told you this will be work right?”
Hatter is getting worried, first with Scott telling him this and now one of Alice’s mates. “Why are you all telling me this?”
Leigh speaks up, “She pushes guys away, she can’t see why anyone would want her. She doesn’t see her beauty, her thoughtfulness or anything else. One guy is all it took for this to happen to her, and she still hasn’t gotten over it. So we are letting you know, since it looks like you like her, and Scott says you will treat her right and that she liked you.”
Hatter wonders how many sentences that really is in the back of his mind, but he realizes that they are essentially giving him their support, but he will still have to work to get Alice’s trust. He nods, “Thank you. Now I need to get her home safe without-”
Scott interrupts him, “Boss, it’s past closing and the staff made sure the guy is gone.”
Hatter glances at him. “It’s not that I don’t trust you Scott, but that git had it planned. I will call one of the cars and have two leave here. Alice was frightened, and until we know otherwise, I don’t want that look on her face again. Just let me do what I need to.”
Scott nods hiding a small smile. He almost wants to kiss that bastard; Hatter is being protective of Alice, and Hatter is always protective of what he loves. That bastard from the dance floor has brought that to the fore and nothing anyone can say will dissuade Hatter. Now for Alice…
Hatter makes the call needed and once he receives confirmation that the cars are downstairs, he gently picks Alice up again and takes her down the stairs. Leigh opens one of the limo’s doors and he gently puts her inside. He stares down at her face, softly moving a lock of hair off her cheek before climbing out. Scott is there and nods to him as he and Sam climb into the limo with Hatter softly closing the door behind them.
Leigh is watching him closely with her inquisitive eyes. She makes one of her snap decisions that she is famous for and leans up to hug him. He looks surprised and she tells him, “That’s for taking such good care of her. Now let us take over, we have had many years of experience taking care of Alice.”
Hatter nods and opens the other door for the ball of energy, which Leigh quickly dashes through. He closes the door and both limos leave the garage, driving into the dark night as he silently watches.