To Have Page 1

CHAPTER 1

I step on the dark stage, the cheap plastic of my platforms cutting painfully into the top of my toes, every step bringing a pinch of pain. I keep my eyes down, following the flecks of silver on the unforgiving stage, waiting, exhaling a breath in controlled anticipation, my abs tightening. Then, the lights come on and I have almost three minutes to forget.

Six hours later.

My flip-flops smack through the front door and I kick them off as soon as I cross the cheap metal threshold. I drop my purse on the round kitchen table and pull it open, my fingers diving inside and pulling out cash, folded, stinky dollar bills, their edges worn, skin limp. I flatten the bills on the table, stacking them as I count, praying feverishly, that it will be enough. I need at least three hundred dollars. My fingers stop moving and I run out of bills at one hundred and thirty-seven dollars. That’s what I get for a Tuesday night. I sigh, counting out a hundred dollars and putting it in my wallet. I’ll go to the bank tomorrow and deposit that before my shift.

A belch sounds from behind me and I tighten, stuffing the rest of the bills back in my purse. I grab it and my jacket, glancing over my shoulder and flash a smile at the overweight man who stands in the doorway, his hairy chest exposed, baggy brown sweatpants sagging underneath his large belly. “Hey Dibs. Didn’t think you’d be up this late.”

He doesn’t respond, his eyes trailing over my sweat pants and t-shirt, a flicker of curiosity in his eyes. “Surprised you’re getting home so late. It’s almost five in the morning. You babysitting that long?”

“Parents had a late night,” I say casually, moving around him quickly, passing through a wall of cigarette smoke and body odor.

“You know rent’s due.”

“I’ll get it to you tomorrow. I’m going to the bank in the morning.” I open the door to my room, and step inside, closing it quickly behind me, hoping that he won’t press the issue, won’t pound on my thin door. I feel the shake of his footsteps, his heavy weight moving to my door, the pause, and then continuation of steps down the hall. I relax, gently locking the handle and dropping my purse on the floor.

My room reeks of Dibs, musty smells contrasting with the sunny scents I typically flood the room with, scents that try and mask the reality of my grime situation. He’s been in here, doing godknowswhat with my things. I want to shower, want to stand under hot water and rinse off the smell of the club, the smell of strangers and smoke. But the desire to avoid Dibs, avoid a chance meeting in the hall with only a towel between me and him… I decide to skip the shower and undress, pulling on a long sleep shirt and soft pajama pants. I crawl into bed quietly, listening for sounds in the house, hoping for the comforting drone of Dib’s snoring, praying that my tired muscles will bring me to a quick sleep.

Sleep isn’t coming. I lie for over an hour, looking up into the ceiling and trying to occupy my mind with anything but numbers. The low balance in my bank account. The high balance on my credit cards. The numbers in red on my past-due cell phone bill. At least tonight was a good night. I didn’t do anything that makes me close my eyes in shame, or curl into a ball and weep into a pillow. I danced, nothing more, nothing less. My purse is lighter for it, but at least I will sleep in good conscience. Except I’m not. I’m lying in bed and watching the room’s window lighten, my stresses keeping sleep at bay. Finally, when my room is fully bathed in light, my eyes droop and I fall the final steps into sleep.

Four hours. Four measly hours is what my body is allowed to sleep for. Then my phone alarm blares, some Miley Cyrus ringtone that I once found cute and now — seventy alarm chimes later — hate with a passion. I reach out and silence the tone, roll onto my back and open my eyes to my life. Whoopee. Another day in paradise.

Poor Planning. That would be the title of the book of my life. I had a worry-free childhood that led to a diamond-studded high school career, which led to an I-don’t-care-about-grades college experience, which led to a useless graduation ceremony with a useless degree proudly framed and promptly stuck into a cardboard box in my parents garage. I celebrated my graduation in high style, entering the Real World with a wallet full of fresh credit cards and a new profile on Monster.com. I was ready to find a job and ready to live life as an adult.

One year later, I came to the conclusion that no one wants to hire an event planner, especially one with no experience, a questionable GPA, and no references, no matter how cute her Betsey Johnson dress is, or how knowledgeable she is on the local party scene. My credit cards were maxed out, I was three weeks late on my rent, and I was desperate. I worked at Radio Shack for a few weeks, the job offer graciously offered by a drinking buddy, but the monthly income didn’t come close to covering my credit card minimum payments. So I drove twenty minutes outside of town and there I ended. At the front doors to the Crystal Palace, a strip club — err…sorry — Gentleman’s Club — located on the county line, as close to town as county legislation would allow, and the only option for local men. It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t a palace, and it doubled my RadioShack income, but only barely. To make ends meet, I often have to perform services above and beyond my job description.

Poor Planning. Or the title could just be — How I Became a Ho. Either way, it’d be a depressing ass book.

CHAPTER 2

My rent’s salvation walks through the front doors at 9 p.m. I am moving through tables, my eyes dancing over prospects, when a firm hand grips my elbow, hot pink nails digging into my skin. “Look alive, Candy. He’s here.”

I glance back, carefully prying her talons out of my arm. “Who’s here?” My irritable tone drops the moment I see who Jezebel is talking about. Him. The dark-haired stranger who, on three prior occasions, taken care of me. I’m not talking about tossing me a hundred dollar bill for a jerkoff in the VIP room. This guy is the biggest high-roller we have, and he seems to reserve his affections for me, a godsend, especially considering the current state of my bank account. Last time he was here, I left with almost three grand in cash, which isn’t to say I didn’t earn every penny.

The first night he came in, I had been mid-dance when Rick’s hand gripped my shoulder. I glanced over, my eyes sharp, and my irritated look turned into a question. Rick never interrupts when we are with a client.

He leaned over, catching the glazed eyes of my client. “Sorry to interrupt, but I need to borrow Candy. Consider the first half of the dance to be on the house.” His hand pulled at my arm, not allowing me an option, and I stumbled off of the man, my heels catching as I hopped and skipped to keep up with him.

“What the hell? Is everything okay?” I hissed at him, narrowly missing the sharp edge of a table as he drug me along.

“We have a high roller, up in VIP. He saw you, wants you, up there.”

“A high roller?” I fought the urge to laugh. The guy probably asked for sparkling water and Rick thought he was fancy. Our club was an establishment for truckers and minivan driving dads; anybody with any taste or money took their plane to Orlando or South Florida if they wanted girls.

“Yes, this guy is loaded. He already ordered a bottle of champagne — you know that bottle of Dom we keep in the back? Plus, he has private security and came in a limo.” Rick was moving fast, his hand incessantly pushing on my lower back, his words practically panting with excitement.

I allowed myself a small sliver of excitement. This guy did sound loaded. Maybe this night would be different. Maybe I would actually meet someone worth meeting, someone who didn’t try to haggle over the price of a lap dance, or who would try and cop a free feel. Rick pulled back the curtain that enclosed the VIP section and I stepped through the curtain and had my first glimpse of him.

There are people that bring elegance to any environment. Our VIP room definitely needed some elegance, built with functionality and economy in mind: worn black couches surrounding a small stage, black curtains on ceiling tracks that could be pulled around the couches, dividing the room into four private spaces, each with a view of the pole. This man sat on a center couch, leaning back, his arms draped out and across the couch, his feet crossed casually at the ankles, a lit cigar glowing from his right hand. Behind the couch, two men stood, their features hid by the shadows, their silhouetted builds impressive. Between them, the cigar smoke drifted across the man’s face, and blue eyes glowed at me, a smug smile widening as I approached.

I masked my apprehension, holding my posture straight, tits out, stomach in, a smile across my face. I walked directly to him and stopped before him. “You asked for me?”

He brought the cigar to his lips, taking a slow drag on it, his eyes raking up and down my body unapologetically. His eyes flitted to the pole, then back to my face.

“Dance.”

I turned slowly to the pole, feeling the absence of Rick, the emptiness of the room. It was odd that we were alone, that no one else was in this space. Even the bouncer had left, leaving me alone with the three men. The house music was piped through this space, a DMX song playing. I strode up to the stage, gripping the pole with one hand and doing a slow spin as I exhaled, releasing my stress and apprehension in one slow breath. You are okay. You are beautiful. You will be fine. I rolled my neck, repeating the mantra, my long hair sliding over my skin as my head moved. I wished for the lights, the bright lights that hid everything from me. Then I took another breath and moved, gripping the pole and swinging my body up and out into the air, a swirling motion that spun the room out of focus, allowing me a brief, short moment of invisibility.

I am reckless on a pole, trusting my legs and arms in a way certain to cause damage. It is a lover I hate and I ride it relentlessly, caressing it in a sensual way that leaves nothing to the imagination. The beat moved through me and I got lost in its strength, pulsating against steel, spinning away only to return to it, my heels a blur of clear sparkle, my thoughts lost in the movement.

My bra was the first victim. One quick unclasp, the release of heavy br**sts as I spun slowly downward, my legs suspending my body upside down above the hard floor. One outward fling, and sparkles and black sequins became airborne and joyful in their flight. I kept my panties on, the thin fabric the only thing between me and the pole.

When the song ended, I was panting, my eyes finally moving, traveling across the floor and then up to his. Sometimes the most terrifying thing is eye contact. It certainly was at that moment, when I was exposed, bare and gasping, on the stage before him. He had the cigar in his mouth and want in his eyes. It was a look I was accustomed to, conditioned to. But on this man the look was different. Hungry and possessive, he ate me with his stare, with the blatant desire that he made no attempt to hide.

“Come here,” he commanded.

I moved carefully, down the steps on the stage, my sky-high stilettos wobbling slightly on their downward descent. Then I was before him. I watched as his hand moved, adjusting himself, the hard line of his c**k outlined in his pants. He glanced at it, and then at me. “Suck me.”

I hesitated, the look in his eyes intoxicating, vivid blue that commanded me. Then I was on my knees, my hands working the leather of his belt, the zipper of his pants. Then his c**k was in my mouth, my wet lips sliding over rock hard thickness. Behind him, motionless and silent, the two bodyguards stood, their eyes forward and hands clasped.

He said little, lying back on the couch and watching me. When he was close, I felt his hands, firm on the back of my head, pulling himself deeper into my mouth. He groaned as his c**k twitched against my tongue, hot wetness filling my mouth, his hand tilting back my head, his eyes capturing mine as he finished, intense blue orbs of possession locked on me. Then his eyes closed and his head dropped back, his c**k pumping one final release into my mouth.

His bodyguards paid me, stepping forward and helping me to my feet, placing a fold of crisp bills into my hand. Then they left, a trio of gone, and I was alone in the dimly lit room.

CHAPTER 3

That was nine months ago and he has been in the club twice since then, both times following the same MO. VIP room. Private dance. Blow job demanded, the words stated in the same authoritative tone that he used with every other command. I was always a willing participant, gleefully accepting the wad of cash that followed.

I can understand your judgment. I know that I am a prostitute. I’m not proud of it. And when I am flush with cash, I refuse the requests for extra services. But at times like today, when I am struggling to fill my car up with gas, I don’t have much of an option. And honestly, when it comes to him, I’d probably do it for free. I like his c**k in my mouth. I like the look in his eyes when he watches me, the blatant need — like there is not another woman on the planet whom he desires more. My body responds to him, to his stare, to his touch. My body aches for his approval, and I want more. I want to feel his hands on my body; I need that c**k entering me in some place other than my mouth.

Maybe tonight will be the night he asks for more. I’ve never f**ked a client, always drawing the line at hand and bl*w j*bs. But this is the first time I’ve been attracted to a patron. I don’t know if it’s the mystery, the money, the perfect features, or the cock, but I want him.

I flash a quick smile to Jezebel. “Thanks for the heads up,” I whisper. My eyes follow him, his normal entourage of guards flanking his confident steps. He turns, looking over the club, and I feel a shot of pleasure when he sees me, his eyes holding mine. He tilts his head in the direction of VIP and I nod, giving him a shy smile.

“Good lord girl, you are lucky.” Jezebel hisses. “There’s a number of things I’d like to do to that man.”

Me too, Jez. Me too. I straighten my shoulders and move, winding through tables and heading to the VIP room.

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