Blake tapped his hand against Jay’s doorframe as he swung into the room, looking between three of his coworkers. “Joanie’s, Thursday night, you all in?”
Daisy’s hand instantly shot up as she laughed. “I am so in! I am ready for this week to be over already and it’s only Tuesday.”
“It probably didn’t help that we were here all weekend.” Matt snorted, turning to Blake. “Karaoke night?”
“Yes.” He nodded vigorously.
“I would, but after that trip to see my folks, I’m strapped.”
Blake looked to Jay for a commitment.
“I don’t know, Man. Money’s a bit tight right now for me too.”
“But Daisy and I can’t be the only ones going, come make a fool of yourself with us.”
Jay rocked his chair side to side. “If you’re buying, then I’m in. Otherwise, I’m going to have to pass.”
Blake shrugged. “I’ll get Nadine to come, then none of us will have to worry about buying.”
That made Matt laugh. “You really think she’ll pay for us to have an evening out? I know you think she’s kind and all-”
He scoffed. “I don’t think Nadine’s paid for a drink her entire adult life.” He started to back out of the room. “I’ll go ask if she’s in, but if she says yes?” He pointed at the two men, who reluctantly nodded.
Heading down the hall, Blake slipped into Nadine’s office and waited for her to acknowledge his presence.
“Yes, Blake?” She asked without looking up.
“Joanie’s Thursday night.”
He watched as her pen paused and then after a beat, she glanced at him. “Open mic night is on Thursdays.”
“Yes, it is.” He did his best to keep a straight face.
Her pen dropped to the desk. “Speak.”
“I invited the other as well, but Matt and Jay are trying to back out because they’re broke.”
She eyed him with a frown, muttering under her breath. “I regret you ever discovering that…” She sighed. “If I say yes, you owe me big.”
“Of course.” He nodded.
“And by big I mean any two items off my schedule of my choosing and dinner somewhere that requires a dinner jacket on your dime.” She paused, voice dropping again in something that imitated irritation. “I am not a trained monkey.”
Blake laughed despite the dirty look she shot him. “Thank you, Nadine. I’ll even toss in the Uber fare.”
“As if that was even a question.” She waved toward the door. “Go. Tell them I’m in, but don’t you dare tell them why…” She could hear his snicker and shouted after him. “And keep the world from falling apart in the next two days!”
Leading the way into the crowded building, Blake made a beeline for the bar as his friends trailed behind. “Hey, Barry!” He waved the bartender down. “Nice turnout.”
“Always is when I have Scotty in on keys. Normal karaoke has a good draw, but you were right about adding the piano.” Barry chuckled. “Just you tonight?” He was already reaching for a tumbler.
Blake gestured over his shoulder. “No. My coworkers are with me.” He watched Barry find them in the pressing crowd. Daisy had been with him a few times and Matt and Jay once or twice, though he figured Barry would barely have a passing memory if them.
He smirked when Barry’s eyes widened. “Nadine came? She gonna sing?”
His grin spread. “Perhaps. Think we can get a table to squeeze five around?”
“I can make something work. I’ll get something stage left for ya.” He turned and called down the bar. “Joey! A first round of whatever Blake wants.” He slapped the bar, dropping his voice as he finished addressing Blake. “Round’s on me.” He chuckled. “Gonna be a good night.”
Once he had the drinks in his hands, Blake relocated the others.
“There are no tables.” Daisy complained.
“Oh, the bartender is getting us something up near the stage.” He didn’t miss the way Nadine rolled her eyes. “These are our first round, on the house.”
“Wow, Blake! You work your magic quick.” Daisy laughed, taking hers. “What’d you do, flirt with him?”
Nadine’s eye roll turned into a bark of laughter. When Blake passed her her glass, he only shook his head. He knew that she knew Barry’s generosity had nothing to do with himself.
Once they got a table, it was Nadine who pointed to the stage first as she took a seat. “You three have to take your turns first, so get going.”
The trio shuffled to the side of the stage and started going through songs. Jay leaned in. “So, how exactly did you manage to get free drinks a minute inside the door?”
He shrugged. “Barry likes Nadine.”
“Oh really?” Jay sounded intrigued.
“Not… not like that. Well… not just like that.” He was eager to end the conversation. “What song are you starting with?”
“You know-” Matt sipped his drink. “She really does have a nice voice.”
“Are you jealous?” Jay teased. Aside from Matt, they’d all taken a turn on stage and now, finally, Nadine was singing along to the piano, having scoffed at the notion of singing to a track.
Matt laughed. “No! It’s just… I guess I kinda forget that she’s a person who can like normal stuff like music too.”
“You’re just an all-around idiot, aren’t you?” Daisy jabbed.
“He is, yes.” Blake cut off the next response. “Look, look.” He pointed, forcing their attention away from where Nadine was casually resting her arm on the piano and grinning as she sang You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You. Walking their way was Barry.
“Blake, these are for Nadine from-” He waved toward the bar. “People.” He emptied the tray of drinks onto the table. “Good ol’ Dean never lets her down.” He shook his head. “She plannin’ on a full set?”
“If the drinks keep coming, I think we can get one out of her.” He caught the curious looks from the other three but ignored them.
“I’ll make sure they do.”
As Barry vanished into the crowd, Matt jumped in. “Barry likes Nadine?”
“Because she drives up drink sales, yes.” The song ended and a beat later, Nadine sank onto the empty stool. “First pick, all for you.” He motioned to the table.
Her eyes lit up as she pulled two shot glasses closer, downing them both quickly. “Scotty said some guy is doing a Michael Jackson number and then he’s dragging me back to do I Get a Kick.” She chuckled. “He’s a Sinatra boy at heart and no one else will sing it anymore. Shame.” Twisting, she shed her blazer, smiling in thanks when Blake took it and put it out of the way. “What songs are you lot doing next?”
Jay and Daisy spluttered out answers before Nadine finally laughed. “I’m not pressuring you.” She sighed. “I know you enjoy singing, though, and none of us got a day off last weekend. You should enjoy the evening while you have it.”
Matt rubbed his eyes to try and clear them. Jay and Daisy had both tapped out quickly on singing and yet their table was covered in empty glasses. It seemed with every song Nadine got up and sang, several things happened- the nature of the song got sexier, somehow she seemed to wear less and less, and the volume of drinks sent to their table grew exponentially. To his right, Blake was leaned against the wall. “You weren’t kidding about not needing to buy anything.”
Blake grinned. “Told you.” He turned his head, watching Nadine move on the stage. “She’s switched to show tunes, so I hope you can keep drinking.”
That made him laugh. “All the best ones are about seduction and sex.”
“Wait. What?” Jay suddenly leaned in, joining the conversation. “She’s gonna sing about what now?”
Before Blake could answer, Joey appeared with fresh shots and to clear the table. “Thanks Joey.”
“No, thank you, Man.” He slapped Blake’s shoulder. “Barry said to tell you it’s almost time for Scotty’s break though.”
“You’re going to break her heart.”
“Not if you fill in.” He nudged him. “Come on, get some Sondheim going between you and by the time you’re tired, Scotty’ll be back to take her from there.”
“I’m not playing for just anyone though, Joey. You couldn’t afford my rates for that.”
Joey laughed. “Got it.”
As the bartender turned to, undoubtedly, share the news, Blake reached for another glass. Nadine finished belting the final words of her song ‘No, I never do anything twice!’ and then the room exploded in excited cheers as she took a bow and then headed for their table again. Blake leaned in as she picked through the fresh selection of drinks. “Joey just said Scotty’s headed for a break.”
Her grin, when she looked up at them, was bright, eyes twinkling happily as her entire face was lit up. “He did look tired!”
Matt exchanged a look with Jay. If he didn’t know better, he’d say that Nadine was more drunk than any of the rest of them, no surprise given the alcohol being bought for her. “How- how you doing there, Nadine?”
She giggled. Properly giggled. “Fine. Why?” She tossed back another drink, jumping and laughing as some of it dribbled down her chin. “Shit.” She swiped it away with her hand, making the others all stare in shock. “You going to be my piano boy then?” She asked Blake.
He studied her closely, looking for signs she needed cut off. “If you wish, but I get to pick the songs.”
“One.” She raised one finger, her arm not as steady as usual. “You can pick one. You’re not the one singing.”
“…Fine.” He acquiesced, standing and steadying her with one hand. “Shall we?”
The others watched as she leaned into his side as they walked away. Daisy leaned a bit closer to Matt. “Does anybody know how much she’s had to drink?”
Matt shook his head. “More than me. Every time she comes back, she picks like two or three off the table. How does she- how does she even drink that much? Like, I wouldn’t have thought her tolerance level would be that high. She weights like… eighty pounds!” The other two laughed at him. “I’m not kidding. Have either of you two been pacing her?”
“I haven’t.” Jay tipped back his glass. “But I can see now why Blake suggested bringing her out with us.”
Daisy had to agree. “I don’t even get this much when I’m out… But then again I don’t sing and dance like that either.” Her eyes bounced from the table to the stage. “Uh, is it just me or is that skirt shorter that it was before.”
“Yeah.” Jay shook his head. “It was to her knees and now it’s… not.” It really, really wasn’t. The piano started and he recognized the tune instantly and sat forward, wondering how singing a song normally intended for a man would go over with the crowd.
“I wonder how many songs she knows.”
“What?” He looked at Matt.
“I just realized, she hasn’t been using the karaoke screens, which means she knew everything so far and… neither of them seem to have music now.”
“I don’t even know, but hopefully there aren’t too many more that encourage her to take off clothes.”
“This is the weirdest night ever and I’m so not going to remember it in the morning.” Matt leaned his head against the table top.
Walking in Memphis ended and Blake started on something new, only to flub a few notes. They watched as Nadine smirked and then pulled the microphone free of the stand before slinking to the piano bench and sitting beside him. “Need some help with your hands there?” The side of the room that could see them at the piano clearly started to cheer.
“What are they doing?” Daisy strained to see.
“I doubt anything good.” Jay couldn’t believe any of it was happening. A deep laugh came through the speakers that was unmistakably Nadine’s. “Okay, that gave me chills.”
“Parallel universe.” Matt explained as the piano restarted, this time playing correct notes. Only half the room could see as Nadine hadn’t stood back up, but soon enough her voice, soft and seductive, filled the room and the noise lessened as everyone focused. “Definitely a parallel universe.”
The silence was broken with catcalls. “What’d she do?” Daisy stood and then leaned down. “She took off her blouse. How is this…? How is this even happening? If this made the news…”
Matt laughed. “Secretary’s Chief of Staff brought down the house and seduced dozens of drunk men while doing a strip tease?”
“That’s not helping, Matt.”
“And it’s not just men.” Jay twirled his finger. “And I’m not touching the striptease comment.”
It seemed the other patrons had, finally, conceded the stage to Nadine for the evening which meant a lot more singing, but also a lot more free drinks sent their way. After she’d finished Lola and then a couple songs Matt couldn’t place where they came from, he watched as Blake was leading a now very wobbly looking Nadine to the table and sitting her down. “Maybe we should take a bit of a break, huh?”
“But there are still more good songs!” Nadine deftly grabbed the shot glass sitting in front of Matt and tossed it back. “There’ll be more, don’t worry.” She smirked.
“I- I wasn’t?”
She gave that same deep laugh again. “They’ll be begging me to go back up you know.”
Blake sighed dramatically as Scotty came out from the back, looking them all over. “Done for the night?”
“Yes.” Blake answered over Nadine’s no. He frowned. “Give us a bit.”
“Sure thing.” Scotty laughed, taking his place back at the piano as a brave person made their way up to the stage.
“You don’t get to boss me around.” Nadine’s eyes were narrowed.
“Two songs. Sit out two songs and then I won’t say a word.”
Daisy’s jaw was dropped open. Flanking her, Jay and Matt were leaned heavy into the table to keep upright, eyes not even blinking. Beside Jay, Blake was leaned face-down into his arms muttering something about being done. But they couldn’t be done, not yet. Not when their normally reasonably reserved boss was now moving her hips and grinding her voice into lyrics about a bunny hug that should’ve left them all blushing, but only didn’t because of the volume of alcohol they’d consumed. When she batted her eyes, the catcalls started again.
“We- we broke Nadine…” Matt whispered.
Jay gave a small chuckle and then another and then, after a beat, he began to laugh. “We are so fucked!”
Daisy gave a small gasp. “Doesn’t she have a meeting with the Ambassador of Thailand in the morning?”
Blake sat up. “Yep.”
“Shouldn’t we pull her off the stage?”
“You are welcome to try.” The song reached its final note and he dropped his head forward again, rubbing his temples. “I’m cut off.” Joey chose then to drop more drinks at the table. “For the love of god stop bringing those over here.”
Joey laughed and patted his shoulder before turning away.
“Um, I think she needs help.” Daisy pointed. They all turned to see what she saw. Nadine was at the edge of the stage now staring down slightly at several men trying to talk to her. The stage itself wasn’t very high, so Nadine was only a head or so taller than them. “That big dude tried to touch her.” She was on her feet. “Drunk dudes who want more of a show are dangerous.” She rushed to the stage, not thinking before she tried to wrap one arm around Nadine and pull he back and then off the stage.
They made it almost to the side before Nadine stopped walking. “I’m not done.”
“They were getting a bit aggressive.”
“I’m fine. If you’re wanting to leave, go ahead, but I’m going to stay a while longer.” She backed away, turning back to the piano and Scotty, who was watching them closely.
With a huff, Daisy moved back to the table. “Well, I tried. She got a bit angry at me.”
“Angry?” Blake’s head popped up again. “No no no, angry’s bad.”
“What do you mean?” Jay pushed empty glasses to the center of the table.
“Drunk plus any emotion other than joy equals-” The opening bars of Tears in Heaven started and he groaned. “Depressing songs that will make her and everyone else cry. Well, guys, the night is now over. Time to get everyone home. You all go, I’ll catch her and see her home so I know she doesn’t reroute back here once my back is turned.”
“Exactly how do you know all this?” Jay finally asked, not getting an answer.
“Gimmie.” Jay waved over the bottle of Pedialyte Matt was drinking. “Good lord, my head is just throbbing.” He sank heavily into a conference room chair. Across the table, Daisy and Matt looked about how he felt. “No more drinking on weeknights.”
“I am regretting letting Blake talk us into it.” Matt agreed. “The only consolation is he looks fairly rough too.”
“And we didn’t have to pay for this hell.” Daisy added.
“He’s in?” Jay debated turning to look toward Blake’s desk but then decided it would take too much effort.
“They’re both in I think. That meeting with Turkey or something was this morning.”
“Thailand.” Daisy corrected. “Is Nadine really in there with the Secretary?”
“As far as I know. Her coat was on the hook in her office.”
The door between conference room and office opened and the three of them stared in shock as Nadine swept in looking as she always did, not a hair or anything else out of place. “Good morning.”
They just stared.
“Thailand is agreeable to helping us, so Matt we’re going to need you to draft a short message from the Secretary and Daisy will need talking points to share with the press pool.” She took her seat and then looked up at them. “What is wrong with all of you?”
Matt spluttered. “I- we- you’re fine.”
“I beg your pardon?”
He looked to the others for help. “I- I swear you… Last night you were… I-”
When he didn’t finish a single thought, she finally prompted him. “Matt?”
“I- never mind.” He stood. “I’ll get started on the writing.”
Daisy stood after him. “I’ll help organize the talking points.”
When she was left at the table with just Jay, she stared in silence.
“Can you even remember last night?”
She arched one brow as an answer.
“I’ll go over the Thailand stuff.” He grabbed the Pedialyte and took off for his own office.
Blake waited until she finally turned to him. “Did you have fun?”
Finally, a smirk broke across her face. “I did, yes.”
“Your faking drunk has come along nicely.”
Her eyes widened. “Keep your voice down!” She settled back into her chair, clearly pleased with herself. “It has, hasn’t it? Think they’ll ever realize all the shots I picked were water?”