Authors: Jaycee Ford
Copyright © 2015 Jaycee Ford
Published by Jaycee Ford
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, including electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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Published: Jaycee Ford
Editor: Josh Vitalie
Cover Design: by Michelle at
Blue Sky Designs
Credit photo: copyright 2014
To Alex and Len and pina verde
To Janet and fried rice and mac & cheese
To Josh and donuts
The pounding beat pulsed through my body. My eyes remained closed as I stood in front of the shiny pole, reached up, and felt the smooth brass in my grip. I climbed up, gracefully moving in ways the men below me seemed to appreciate. When I reached the top, I squeezed my legs around the pole and slowly spun toward the ground, back arched and chest bared for all of Atlanta to see.
A pang of regret speared my heart. This wasn’t what I thought I would be doing with my life. There had been a moment when I’d believed I could’ve had a life with Lance. We had a chance. Who was I kidding? I was Angela Butler, the town slut. People who knew me well enough called me Angie, but ever since the rumors, Lance had been the only person to call me Angie.
Jesus. He dumped you years ago. Let it go.
I never said I wasn’t a bitter person, and thanks to certain men in my past, I had a lot to be bitter over. Life would be better if I stopped holding on to grudges. I knew that, but the idea of proving to them I was worth more than the slut they thought me to be was worth holding a grudge.
My back met the cold tile, and I pushed my chest up, arching my body off the ground. I turned my head to the side as that spear in my heart vanished. A comforting warmth soothed the ache as the brown eyes I had fallen in love with stared back at me. A smile tugged on his lips. I relaxed, his words echoing in my head. “
Just a few more weeks and we’ll start somewhere new. Maybe Alaska. Just you and me, baby. We’ll leave this world behind.”
I loved Simon. He made all of this madness worth it. He called me Angie.
A smile eased up my cheeks and I flipped over, laying eyes on some poor soul who thought he was going to get me into bed. I crawled over to him as if he would win me over with his expensive suit and his perfectly styled black hair. I knelt in front of him, sitting back on my heels. I arched my spine and slowly rolled my body to the beat of the music. His eyes landed on the small patch of red lace covering my most intimate part. He reached inside his jacket pocket, pulled out a bill, and stuck it between my skin and the string. I peered down and saw Benjamin Franklin smirking at me.
Alaska was expensive.
I turned over and bounced my ass in his face while his hand glided up the back of my legs. The customers weren’t supposed to touch, but I let it slide as he took hold of the lace and shoved another bill underneath the string.
Alaska was expensive.
Smaller bills were tossed at me from the patrons sitting beside Mr. Franklin. I glanced at Simon in the back corner, but he wasn’t there. It was rare for him to not be there during my performances. Thankfully, my song had ended.
“Let’s hear it for Scarlett!”
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes for the umpteenth time, tired of my stupid stage name. I scooped up my money and the few clothes I wore out on stage. I sashayed behind the curtain and climbed down a flight of stairs into the dressing room, snapping my lace bra into place. Reaching the floor, I kicked off the stripper heels and padded my way over the cold tile to my vanity. I pulled on a pair of yoga pants, wishing they would do something about the temperature at the club. Atlanta might be in the south, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t freezing in early March. As I pulled on a pair of socks and slipped on a pair of shoes, Olive, the only girl who’d ever been friendly to me, filled the vanity chair to my left. All of the strippers that worked here, except me, seemed to use some variation of their real name. It was almost as if they wanted to hang on to their old lives while keeping this life safely at arm’s length. I didn’t want my two lives to intersect at all. I worked here for the money, and because I was in love with Simon, the owner.
“Are you done for the night?” she asked, lighting up a cigarette while sitting in nothing but a G-string.
“I think so, but that last guy stuck five hundred bucks in my crotch, so I may be getting called out again.” I unlocked the bottom drawer of my vanity and pulled out my engagement ring. As I slipped it on, Olive blew smoke in my face.
“Lucky bitch. Was it that Spanish god in the front?”
“Yep.” I scratched my head and pushed the red hair out of my face. I hated wigs. My short blonde hair wasn’t
enough for a stripper. Long red hair was apparently daring enough. A red wig and a red G-string became my uniform for Scarlett. “I really hope I’m done. I’m ready to go home.”
She smirked at me and kicked my chair. “I thought you were just banging the boss. I didn’t know you were gonna marry the effer.”
“Olive, you’ve got a VIP,” echoed down the stairs.
Olive’s head fell back as she blew out smoke and then handed me her cigarette. “You can finish that for me.”
I waved at her as I placed the cigarette between my lips and took a long drag. I officially gave up smoking months ago. Finishing Olive’s didn’t count. I pulled a robe over my bare shoulders, but didn’t put my arms through the sleeves in case I had to go back to work. I dug out my phone and decided to read while I waited on Simon.
Different girls came in and changed, leaving for the night. Olive came back in and hustled out quick, waving goodbye. The time on my phone said it was almost three in the morning. I bit the inside of my lip. I hadn’t seen Simon since I’d been on stage, and we were usually on our way home by now. I stood, pushing my arms through the sleeves, and cinched the robe tight around me. As I exited the dressing room, I found the place quiet … too quiet. Goosebumps traveled up my arms as I walked behind the stage and turned down the dark hallway toward Simon’s office.
“You told the boss last week that you’d have the money!”
I froze halfway down the hall. I didn’t recognize the voice coming from behind the partially opened office door.
“You tell Mateo that he’ll get his fucking money when he replaces the product.”
I stepped quietly down the hall when I heard Simon’s voice. My body ran ice cold, my heart thumping wildly in my chest. I peeked in through the crack of the open door. A huge man with a slicked back ponytail stood in front of Simon’s desk, peering over him by a foot. Another man with a pock-marked face stood beside Simon, holding his arm. It didn’t seem to faze Simon that these men were here. His arms crossed over his chest, and he had a menacing glare in his eyes. Why was he so comfortable?
“It doesn’t work that way.”
The big man nodded once. A gun pressed against Simon’s temple. A loud echo rang in my ears.
I backed away from the door clutching my hands over my mouth to muffle my scream. I stumbled down the stairs and did the one thing I was good at.