I stand in front of the mirror, the most handsome reflection staring back at me. I work my hand, pushing up my tie as I straighten it. Fuck. I couldn’t look any better if I tried.
The expensive, one of a kind, tailored suit fits to perfection. I’m every bit the handsome businessman I always set out to be. But living in this huge apartment has its downfalls. It’s funny how someone so successful and so popular, can feel so fucking alone.
I feel the buzz of my phone in my pocket and I push my hand into my pants, retrieving it. A huge smile spreads across my face when her name appears on the screen.
“Well, to what do I owe this pleasure?” I hold the phone in place against my shoulder; the sound of her laughter fills my ears.
“Josh,” she lets out a muffled laugh, “someone wants to say goodnight.” I can sense by her tone how much she’s smiling and after everything she’s been through, this makes me happy.
The phone rustles and I can soon hear his loud breathing down the receiver. “Hey buddy.”
“Uncle Josh, why aren’t you here,” he chokes out.
“Because I’m here,” I reply.
“At home, buddy.”
“But I want you to come play with me,” he sniffles over the phone and I know he’s starting to get upset.
“I will be coming over tomorrow, okay,” I try and placate him. “Hey,” I say suddenly remembering, “I will bring that Lego set I promised you.”
“Really,” he screams excitedly through the receiver, so much so, I pull the phone away from my ear.
“Of course. But you have to do me one thing. Okay, buddy?”
“What? Anything,” he rushes out.
“Be good for Mom and Dad. And get yourself in bed. It’s way past your bed time, Finn.”
“Okay, bye. Love you, Uncle Josh.”
“Love you, Finn bobs,” I mutter as the phone rustles one more time.
“Hey, man,” Caleb comes on the line. “What did you promise him this time,” he mutters before sighing heavily.
“Dude, come on. You cannot put him on the phone and expect me to not give in. You know I’m a sucker for that kid. He’s my buddy.”
“You’re impossible,” he mumbles. “So, what are you doing tonight? You never mentioned it before when we spoke, why all the secrecy?”
“No secrecy,” I answer making my way out of the bathroom and across the hall. “I’m going to a strip club.”
“Ahhhh,” Caleb sings down the phone. “Well, have fun.”
“Oh, I intend to,” I laugh, before ending the call. I will have fun. I always do. But somehow, it just never seems enough. My two best friends have moved away, and truth be told, I fucking hate my own company. I’ve watched them fall so deeply in love, the life changing, earth-moving kind of love. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that, maybe, it’s just not meant for all of us. I just want a girl who can make my dick stiff and heart pound. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for. Right?
I make my way to the club in a taxi, ready to meet some of the site guys in there. As we pull up outside, the place looks, well, let’s say, interesting. The neon sign, only partially lit reads, girls girls girls. Oh jeez, where the fuck have they brought me?
I pull out my cell phone, dialing Big C. We call Colin Big C, because he’s pretty much the size of a goddamn house.
“Josh, man. Where are you,” he roars into the phone, shouting over the sound of the music blaring in the background.
“I’m outside. Dude, this place is the worst.”
“Just come on up. It’s better from the inside and it won’t be long until I’m inside this pretty little doll,” he whispers as I pull the phone away from my ear, grimacing. I can’t believe he just said that. Fuck. I’m not sure I can erase that goddamn image. Leaning forward between the seats, I push the money into the driver’s hand before stepping out and making my way over to the entrance. A small bald headed bouncer is stood at the door, surrounded by plumes of smoke as he takes huge drags of his cigarette.
“Hey,” I say with a smile, but his face doesn’t change. He lightly tips his head, stepping to one side to allow me to enter. I laugh a little to myself, wondering why or how this guy is on the door. Worst security ever.
I skip up the steep staircase. The closer I get to the top, the louder the music becomes. I push my hand against the frosted glass window, making my way inside the main room of the strip club. My eyes scan the smoky bar, loud voices and cheering, along with the music fills the room. I slowly walk over to the bar area, just beside the stage and seated area. My eyes scan the tables looking for Big C; he spots me, giving me a fleeting wave. I lean on my hands, resting myself against the bar. This is a bad idea. I’m already hating it. I’ve been to plenty of strip joints, but none as bad as this. I glance down at my expensive suit and shake my head loosely from side to side. Talk about overdressed.
“What can I get for you?” the bartender asks.
“Beer and a whiskey chaser,” I say, digging into my pockets retrieving my wallet. I throw the money on the counter and quickly throw back the whiskey. The only way I am getting through tonight is to get drunk. I grab the beer, my change and head over to the guys.
“Josh, man. Where have you been fucking hiding?” Big C stands precariously from his chair, steadying himself by holding onto the table.
“Glad to see you’re wasted already,” I laugh, placing the beer on the table and wrapping my arms around him as far as they will go. I pat him on his broad back as he laughs loudly.
“Oh, sit your sorry ass down. You just need to catch up. What took you so long?”
“Takes time to look this good,” I say, gesturing with my hand. “Not that it will be appreciated in a joint like this.” I glance around, topless girls dancing on the three poles that line the main stage.
“We come here for the extras. Pure and simple.”
“Extras,” I question, my eyes boring into him.
“Yeah, you know. The backstage action. They’re pretty much up for anything here.” He slurs, giving me a slow, exaggerated wink.
“I don’t need to come to places like this to get laid, man. I knew this was a bad idea the minute I rocked up here.” I sigh, my eyes glancing around looking for the door. “I’m going to have my beer and make a move,” I inform him, sliding down into the chair in front of me. “I’m just not feeling it, man,” I sigh heavily, realizing that this sort of place is just not for me.
“Not feeling what?” He leans in closer, shouting over the music as the girls in front work up and down the poles. “This whole place oozes sex, man. It’s fucking pussy on tap. Jeez!” He reaches over, places his hand flat against my forehead. “You feeling okay?”
I laugh, moving my head back to break the contact of his hand. I want to tell him to fuck off, that I can get pussy whenever I want. But that’s not what I want anymore and I’ll sound like some sappy piece of shit if I start spouting emotional relationship crap.
“How is your sister? Long time no see,” I tease, knowing this will completely piss him off.
“Fuck you,” he snaps, his eyes narrowed on me as he glares intensely. “Personally, I don’t know what she saw in you,” he retorts, picking up his beer and taking a huge mouthful.
“Sure you do,” I laugh it off, happy to have changed the subject. I hold out my hand to the other guys, Nate and Justin. The three of them work together in the building trade, which is how I know them. Being the architect, I work closely with these guys on most of my client’s projects. They shake my hand, but my attention is soon drawn back to Big C.
Turning back to the stage, his eyes widening as the girls step down from the poles and make their way down from the stage. The busty blonde sways over to us, her bright red nail pressed firmly against her lip. I watch as she trails her hand over Big C’s shoulder before placing one leg over his lap. She begins to grind on him, working her body in a mesmerizing way. Within seconds he’s digging his hands in his pocket and pushing a handful of twenties in the waistband of her tiny panties. I force my eyes away, noticing a girl stood at the bar. She appears to be in a heated conversation with someone and I try to force my eyes away, but I can’t. I push back my chair, all eyes on me as I leave the table. Each guy looks at me like I’m crazy, but I don’t care for the strippers on the stage. They don’t catch my attention. Not like this girl. Suddenly, I now have a reason to stay, and this girl is reason enough.
I slowly walk over, leaning against the dark wooden bar top, casually waiting for the bartender to come over and take my order. I listen carefully, trying to catch the conversation between the two over the thudding of the music that reverberates through the club.
“You want the job, you wear the fucking uniform. Got it,” the guy growls at the girl, his face close to hers.
“I had no idea it would mean wearing nothing. That’s not a uniform,” the girls arm flies out to the side as she points to the girls on the stage.
“So, let me get this straight. You thought working in a strip club would involve wearing clothes?” He lets out an exaggerated laugh in disbelief.
“Well, uh, something,” she stumbles, “like, don’t I need to wear something to be able to strip it off?” she asks, shaking her head from side to side.
I laugh to myself, sipping on the remains of my empty drink. The girl swivels on the spot, turning to me and glaring widely.
Holy mother of god.
My mouth goes slack as my eyes scrape over her face. She has an understated prettiness about her. She’s barely wearing a scrap of makeup, yet her face is perfection. Her flawless skin tone, and those thick fucking eyelashes. You know the sort, the ones girls pay a fortune to stick on. Well, this girl has her own set and they frame her bright emerald eyes perfectly.
I clear my throat nervously as her furious gaze is on me.
“What’s so funny?” She asks calmly.
“Oh, uh, nothing,” I reply, “I happen to agree with you on the clothes thing.” My eyes wander from her face, taking in her petite, but perfectly toned body.
“See,” she turns back to the guy.
“No arguments,” he snaps, “go topless, or go home. The guys pay to see tits, not clothes.” He shakes his head, turning and walking away, leaving the girl beside me at the bar. She rests her arms on the top of the bar area, and her head against them.
“I’m Josh, by the way.”
Her closed eyes flicker up to me, and I can see the glisten of tears in her eyes.
“Hey,” she smiles sadly, slowly lifting her head from the bar. She pushes the stray strands of hair that have fallen over her face, before sliding onto the stool beside me.
“Can I get you a drink?” I ask, no longer able to fight back the smile that’s been trying to creep across my face the whole time I’ve been stood next to her.
“I, uh, I better not.” She scans the area around her, as if worried we are being watched.
“What are you doing here?” I ask, resting my hand on her arm. “You’re not like the rest, are you?”
“The rest? What does that mean?”
“Well, look at you,” I say with a nervous laugh. I never anticipated having to explain myself. “You know, you’re like a fish out of water here.”
“Oh,” she replies with a lift of her brow, her eyes widening with realization. “I’m new here, it’s my first shift. I’m just not sure I’m down with the whole topless thing, you know? I thought it would be sexy underwear, or skimpy outfits. But not that,” she jolts her thumb at the girls working the poles.
“I get the impression that this is no ordinary strip club,” I whisper close to her ear, feeling her body shudder in response.
She slowly turns her head, her eyes meeting mine. My heart fucking accelerates and I swallow down hard. I’m really turned on by her, and I have absolutely no idea why. I have girls throwing themselves at me all the time and I’ve never felt like this in my life. My whole body feels like it’s craving her, wanting to reach out and touch her. Taking a small step away, confused by my own body’s reaction.
“I best go get ready. I can’t afford to lose this job,” she sighs, pushing herself from the bar and clapping her hands together in front of her. “It was nice to meet you.” She smiles, biting the corner of her lip.
“Don’t go,” I snap, taking her hand in mine. “Stay here with me a while.”
“I can’t. I have to work.”
“Well then, I’m your client. I will pay. Just don’t go up there. Something tells me you’ll be eaten alive.” My voice is hoarse, caused by the lump in my throat.
“You would do that?” she asks with a tone of disbelief.
I nod, willing my mind to come up with something that can explain the protectiveness I feel for this girl. A girl I barely know.
I lean in a little closer, my shoulder brushing against hers. “I know about the private rooms. Let’s go in there.” I see the shock written all over her face and immediately correct myself. “Not to do anything, I promise,” I say holding up my hands in a mock surrender. “But it will get you away from the rest of the guys in here who will expect something more.”
Narrowing her eyes, she focuses on my face for a few moments. The looks she gives me is one of confusion, like she’s not sure whether she should be pissed at me or thankful. I sit in silence waiting for her to respond, for her to say something. But she doesn’t. She takes one step backwards before walking away from me without saying a single goddamn word. My gaze is fixed on her as she walks through a door labeled private and I gawk in disbelief. What the fuck just happened?
“What can I get you,” the bartender interrupts my silent thoughts. I turn to see him waiting, eyes wide with anticipation.
“Just another beer, man,” I say, holding up the empty bottle, before placing it on the bar and pushing it closer to him. The bartender nods, reaching into the refrigerator, pulling out a bottle of beer. He removes the cap from the bottle then places it in front of me. Reaching into my pants, I retrieve the seven dollars and place it in the bartender’s open hand. I reach down, placing the neck of the beer bottle to my lip. Before I can take a drink, I’m yanked to the side, almost dropping the bottle completely.
“You’re on!” She smiles widely before tucking her hair behind her ears. She continues to tug lightly on my arm and I stagger behind her as she drags me to a doorway positioned just behind the stage. I turn to the guys sat at the table, all eyes wide and on me as they notice me being led off to the private rooms. Despite the music, I can hear them jeer and see them standing and cheering as I am pulled from sight. I don’t resist, I just follow her down into the hallway and watch as she pushes a key into the door. Opening it, she reaches inside, flicking on the light switch.
“Dammit, you’re keen,” I joke, and laugh out loud at her reaction. She drops her hold on my hand and tilts her head to the side, pursing her lips.
“I was just thinking about your offer, and yeah, this sounds more fun than taking my clothes off in front of those guys out there,” she laughs, but I can tell underneath she’s nervous and my mind races with thoughts of how someone like her ended up in a place like this. She is a stark contrast to the rest of the girls. She’s petite, brunette and not in the slightest fake looking.
I step through the door, closing it behind me. I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking when I made the offer, all I know is that I couldn’t bear to see this girl forced to flaunt herself out on that stage. Something about her tells me she’s different, somehow special. I glance around the small room, the sparkling gold wallpaper and the red décor screams sex. She nervously walks over to the red leather couch, tapping the seat beside her as she pulls her legs underneath her.
“Jeez, this is a shithole. I just can’t get my head around a girl like you working in a place like this.” I stride over to her, sitting beside her. She turns to me; a small smile tugs at the corner of her mouth.
“Why do you care?” she asks. “I need money, and this was an easy option.”
“Oh come on, uh…” I suddenly realize that I have no idea what this girl’s name is. “I’m sorry, I don’t even know your name,” I sigh, pushing my hand through my hair.
She holds out her petite hand. “I’m Quinn,” she almost whispers, and I suck in a deep breath. Her name is almost as beautiful as she is.
“Nice to meet you, Quinn,” I smirk, “I’m Josh.”