Authors: J. A. Saare
Tags: #Romance Speculative Fiction
I released an exaggerated sigh and lowered my head, dropping my guard just long enough for Disco to make his move. His cold hand grasped my arm and my chin jolted up.
“Let go, Disco.” I would have attempted to yank free but I’d only embarrass myself. Vampires are strong,
strong, and his grip would be as unbreakable as steel.
“Only if you promise we can talk.” His blue eyes flashed, striking against his pale skin and golden blond hair. His face was smooth, his jaw strong and squared. With high cheekbones, straight lean nose, and full lips, he would forever be a twenty-something looker frozen in time.
“Not here,” I grated between clenched teeth. I glanced around. No one had noticed our little chat yet. I couldn’t afford to lose my job. Personal relations during office hours were a big no-no. But this one wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“Where?” His grip loosened and he studied me.
“After close, meet me outside, around the back.”
I didn’t bother snatching my arm free. I waited until he let go before I turned and strode back to the bar. I returned to my spot, apologizing and pouring a free one for the unlucky schmuck with a purple thumb. Tonight was not going to be a good night, and it wasn’t even over yet.
I glanced at the clock—12:58am.
I was on for another hour, and instead of making the gym for some quality muscle burn, I had a meeting with a guy who scared the piss out of me.
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This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Cover Art © 2009 by Cover Artist J.A. Saare
eBook ISBN: 978-1-77065-014-5
First eBook Edition * February 2010
Production by Eternal Press
Anthony Fernandez (aka, my Ty). Your help in maneuvering the streets of New York, the subway system, and the “L”, was invaluable. I never could have written this book without your help, guidance, and hours spent taking me through the “big city”. Thank you.
My ever-glorious three – Mom, Ty, and Jimbo. And of course, the indelible Trent Reznor, for crafting the music that rocks my socks.
Rhiannon’s Law #27: When you’re working in a gentlemen’s club and one of your dancers takes off those heels, alert the big guns, an ass kicking is on the menu.
Any good dancer knows how to work the clientele, and Lacey was a pro. She raked in a majority of the house take, and her regulars came from miles around just for a private. She was deceptively young looking, with long blonde hair and big baby-blue eyes, which were a huge part of her attraction. She would never reveal her age, but since I was on the welcoming committee—AKA the department of industrial relations—I was in the know. A twenty-two year old that looked illegal as hell.
The men ate that jailbait shit up with a spoon.
“How much for a lap dance, Sweetheart?”
I glanced at the owner of the voice, and no surprise, he wasn’t anything special. Just another Joe Schmoe dressed in his screw me best. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that line, I could quit my blow hole job and retire, enjoying the good life without millions of assholes just like this one who thought they were so quick.
I waited. I knew what was coming next. That’s another perk of having asshole customers—predictability.
“I bet you get asked that question all the time.”
I gave my sweetest smile. The one that says “aw shucks” on the outside and a big huge “fuck you” on the inside.
Let’s see, genius. I’m a female, working inside a bar that just so happens to feature exotic dancers. I have all my teeth, a decent body of my own, and although I hit the big 2-5 recently, I could pass for years younger. Nope, no one would ever think to ask me that question. Who cares if I’m standing behind a bar peddling liquor? Those bottles could just be another part of my act.
I moved down the drunken assembly line. I had beers to refill, drinks to concoct, and other witty Casanovas with well-researched one-liner’s to endure.
Erica took the stage. Her tanned skin like leather, too dark and too fake, matching the breasts she purchased a decade before. My eyes stalked her as I refilled a request for Hennessey. Every exotic bar has a queen bitch, and Erica was ours. She lived to start drama, thrived on it. Her damage stemmed from the fact she was the oldest of our dancers and passed her prime a few years ago.
Stripping is not a fair or unbiased career field. Your body and looks are your livelihood. Once those two things go, it’s only a matter of time before you punch your last T&A ticket. And Erica’s stub was wilting faster than a golden wrapped candy bar that would gain her admittance into the chocolate factory.
“How much for a lap dance, sweetheart?” a familiar voice mocked.
I didn’t have to look up. I would know that silky baritone anywhere.
“Not now, Disco.” My eyes tracked Erica as her number finished and she eased over to Lacey’s table. I concentrated on their body language, focusing on her face, paying close attention.
“Bad night?” he asked, peering over his shoulder.
I took a passing glance while he was distracted. He was dressed from head to toe in black, like every other night. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The color complimented him.
“Not yet,” I answered in my usual wait-and-see voice.
Lacey and Erica came face to face and began talking quietly. So far, so good—shoes on and voices low. Maybe I was wrong, maybe it wouldn’t be one of those nights.
Please God, make it so.
Another voice I knew by heart, only this one made me grit my teeth and pray for tolerance. I walked to the left of the bar toward Lonnie, the fat bastard of the club. He’d been a regular since I’d joined the BP family, and though he knew my name, insisted on referring to me as bartender.
“What do you want, Lonnie?” I placed my left hand on my hip, bracing myself against the bar on the right.
As he spoke, I struggled to keep my eyes on his face and away from his chest. I failed and cringed inwardly. There were random orange stains over his white T-shirt. Ketchup or barbeque sauce, I thought. A rounded Santa Claus belly caused the material to pooch out, creating a little cotton ramp that slid down his chest to the rounded swell of beer gut.
I didn’t understand how the hell someone could be so clean—his hair, face, and hands were always immaculate—yet he couldn’t seem to get food inside that whining hole in his head.
“She’s on vacation.” Deena warned me this was coming. She was his bartender. The only one to whom he didn’t talk down. I had weeks to get used to the idea, but no amount of time in this world could adequately prepare me for dealing with Lonnie. “Anything else?”
“Crown and coke.” He whipped his stool around, thereby dismissing me.
Welcome to McDonald’s, can I take your order? One super sized, fat assed, pork bellied value meal? Coming right up!
I walked over to the rack and pulled down the crown. I poured it first, slid the bottle back, and returned to the main station.
A couple of cubes of ice and a dash of Coca-Cola finished it off. I sat the glass in front of Lonnie and he blew me off, lifting the contents to his lips and tossing it back.
My gaze darted around the dark cloudy room. The tables were full, but that was to be expected. The BP wasn’t the most exclusive club in town, but we had decent girls, a hospitable crowd, and we keep it clean. Those inclined to visit a topless bar could get their Johnson on in relative safety and enjoyment, as long as they kept their hands to themselves.
Old-school David Bowie blasted from the speakers and Destiny took the stage. The dark curtains parted as she sashayed past, the white glow of the stage light bringing attention front and center. One of the few who didn’t tan, her pale skin was soft and luminescent in the stage lights, her pink bikini appearing to glow and sparkle. Destiny was one of my favorite dancers. She told it like it was and always kept it real. Like when she used her double-jointed limbs to work the pole.
You can’t get more real than that.
“Can we talk later?” Disco appeared in front of me and I attempted to act as if I’d seen the movement, swallowing quietly. The way they moved always creeped me out, so fast it appeared instant. It was unnerving and jolting.
A lush requesting a refill on his Wild Turkey saved me. I reached under the counter to snag the bottle and poured him a little something extra in the glass for the assistance. When finished I stayed put, feet firmly planted, but I knew I was delaying the inevitable. We would have to speak at some point. I couldn’t have Disco showing up like this every night.
“Bartender!” Lonnie yelled.
I rolled my eyes. The most demanding of them all was the shittiest tipper to boot.
What I wouldn’t give to shove a bottle of Crown up his ass.
I unplanted my feet, rubber-soled boots squeaking against the wet plastic floor mats. I always wore my shit kickers, even on nights like tonight. The laced up boots were reminiscent of emo goth punk, but they did far more than help me seem fashionably depressed. The reinforced steel toe was great for crotch shots when I needed to exert a little extra bartender lovin’.
“What do you want, Lonnie?”
“When’s Deena coming back?” He didn’t bother looking at me. That would take too much effort. Instead, those beady eyes remained locked on the stage—typical.
“When she comes back,” I answered flatly. “Can I get anything else for you?”
When he shook his head, I rolled my eyes again.
Poor Deena, her best client was a pot-bellied pig living in the bright lights of New York City. I hoped she was enjoying her time away from this clandestine hellhole while she soaked up the cancer-laced rays in sunny Florida.
A surge of black snagged my attention and I chanced a glance. Disco was there, staring at me. I couldn’t read his expression.
Why did his un-dead, and I mean ‘un-dead’, friend have to show up that night?
I was on the nine, slinging the money, when I noticed someone standing over the pocket. When he didn’t move after a polite request, I lost my genteel sensibilities and yelled for him to get the fuck out of the way. I realized my mistake, of course, when I took a better look and could see the people directly behind his airy body.
Necromancy, or as it is defined in the dictionary, divination by means of the spirits of the dead, is a bitch, and I hate the hell out of it. I see some pretty insane shit…whether I want to or not. Since the state a person dies in is the state they maintain in spirit, it’s a constant box of chocolates, and I don’t mean the momma always says kind either.
Death by heart attack—just another day at the office. Death by electrocution—not so bad. Death by car, head sliced neatly open with brain matter galore—beyond all concepts of nasty.
“Bartender!” Lonnie yelled again.
I bit my tongue, literally. The pointed edge of my incisor hurt, which was the point. I had to hold it in, or I was going to blow.
“What can I get for you, Lonnie?”
“Will Deena be back next weekend?”
Count to ten. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten. Got your shit together? Okay, good. Answer the gentleman.
“I don’t know, Lonnie,” I smiled, speaking through my teeth. “She’s on vacation, an
“Yo, Rhiannon.” Cletus stomped forward from the floor. Muscles that were smooth under the dimmed lights defined his warm chocolate-colored skin. His bald head gleamed and shined as the overhead lights bounced off the surface and reflected the beams.
New York’s most intimidating bouncer and I shared a happy working relationship, and the rules that governed that relationship were simple. No lies, no ass kissing, no bullshit. It worked better than most marriages.
“Yo, Cletus,” I answered, walking behind the bar in his direction. Everyone made way. No one wants to be in the path of a 6’4” Mac truck with guns the size of two-by-fours.
“You headed to the gym after this?”
I glanced at Disco who was undoubtedly listening in. “Probably. I missed my set last night. Why do you ask?”
His large hand produced a set of keys. Nothing fancy, just a plain ring surrounded by various scraps of metal that held the power to unlock doors. “Give that to Mike. He’s on tonight.”
“No problem.” I took them and pushed the jangling chain into the pocket on my skirt. I had to pay my dues anyway, and since Mike owned the joint, it was a win-win situation.
As soon as Cletus returned to the floor, the night picked up, and I was thankful. I didn’t want to be in this place any longer then I had to, and Friday and Saturday were the fastest moving nights of the week.
I was filling a shot of Absolut when I heard Erica snarl, “You fucking skank!”
My head snapped up. Erica and Lacey were engaged in a heated discussion at the opposite end of the bar. Fingers were flying and barbs were being exchanged. I topped the shot off and plopped the bottle under the counter just as Lacey started pulling off those three-inch red patent leather fish high heels.
“Cletus!” I ran to the lift and tossed the heavy wood aside. Someone yelled as his fingers got smashed, but I didn’t have time to apologize, and I didn’t have time to be courteous.
Lacey was barefoot.
A few things everyone should know about women who work these establishments. They are very savvy. Exotic dancing is a business, and many of them can retire young with sound financial planning. They are excellent actresses. That little show you see up on that stage every night is just that, a show. And they scrap. I don’t mean that as in going to the local dump to look for spare aluminum. I mean it as in they will eat your ass for lunch.
Lacey’s punch came before Erica could get her shoes off, sending her to the ground. She drew her fist back again, poised to strike, but I grabbed her by the wrist. “Cool down, Lacey,” I said evenly. “You don’t want to lose your job. Hector is coming over.”
That got her attention. The fight left her body and she stood. I let her go and watched Erica’s head slump to the side.
Girlfriend was out cold.
Blood ran in a bizarre line that mixed with her lipstick, as if she were a deranged life size joker Barbie doll complete with bouffant hair, rhinestones, and fingernails that made it impossible to scratch certain surfaces.
Cletus picked Erica up and tossed her over his shoulder. Her head flopped around limply as he carried her to the curtains, reminding me of a bobble head doll on a car dash.
Hector walked over, addressing Lacey. “Mind telling me what happened?”
“She wouldn’t back off. I warned her.” Lacey pouted, appearing her actual age for once...
Hector frowned at her reproachfully for a moment, then his face smoothed and relaxed. The big boss could be an asshole, but for the most part, he was a decent employer. He understood the human condition. As well he should. He profited directly from it.