Authors: Violetta Rand
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Women, #New Adult, #Erotica, #General
A Devil’s Den Novel
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Loveswept eBook Original
Copyright © 2015 by Violetta Rand
by Violetta Rand copyright © 2015 by Violetta Rand
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States of America by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
Loveswept is a registered trademark and the Loveswept colophon is a trademark of Random House LLC.
eBook ISBN 9781101882672
Cover design: Georgia Morrissey
Cover photograph: Vlasov Pavel/Shutterstock
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
by Violetta Rand. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
“Don’t touch me again,” I warn, tapping the heel of my stiletto on the ceramic stage floor.
“What ya gonna do?” Robert, a regular customer, slurs while standing at the stage. “Smack me with one of your big tits?” He laughs at his own stupidity.
I ignore him and turn around, my hips swaying to the tempo of the wild music. Robert stays glued to the corner of the stage. I move farther away, accepting a ten-dollar tip from a glassy-eyed redneck who has a silly grin plastered on his face.
“You’re beautiful,” he says.
“Thank you.” I don’t receive compliments well, but it’s something I’ve adjusted to since I became a dancer.
The song is almost over. I can’t wait to leave. The pungent combination of stale beer, cigarettes, and male sweat is nearly enough to make me throw up tonight. Add strobe lights overhead and a smoke machine that the DJ likes to overuse, and I’m itching to get away.
“I’m sorry,” Robert blurts.
“Go back to your seat,” I say.
“Just come over here . . .”
I edge closer, hoping he’ll shut up. He holds up a fifty. I shake my head. A modern-day version of paying an indulgence fee. He thinks fifty dollars will absolve his sins. “I don’t need your money.”
“Liar!” he shouts.
“Be quiet,” I hiss. If he gets too rowdy, the bouncer will come over and make a scene. I hate being the center of attention. “All right.” I move next to him and squat. He tucks the bribe money in the side of my G-string.
Without warning, he grabs my left butt cheek. Instinctively, I punch him in the jaw. He stumbles backward, tripping on the leg of a chair. I stand. “I told you!” I shout this time. “Don’t. Ever. Touch. Me.” I grab my dress off the speaker near the corner of the square stage and leave.
I make sure I slam the dressing room door, hard. I’ve had enough insults slung at me for one night. Strangers grabbing my ass. Other dancers judging me for playing by the rules. This wasn’t a career choice, just an unfortunate detour I took three years ago, as soon as I turned seventeen, using a fake ID. That neon red sign out front in the parking lot had the same effect on me as a lighthouse does on a ship tossing in a watery void. It was a lifeline. I’d never go hungry again. Never sleep on another friend’s couch because I don’t have anywhere else to go.
People compromise all the time to get where they need to go. Screw draconian societal values. And fuck anyone who judges me for it. Stripping off my black sequined bra and matching panties, I kick off my five-inch stilettos, then rub my feet. I walk to a row of freshly painted metal lockers hanging on the wall. I unlock mine, then grab my large duffel bag and toss it on the floor.
I sit cross-legged on the carpeted floor and dig inside my bag. I take out a pair of gray warm-ups and a matching ribbed tank top. Working tonight was a bad choice. The club is full of assholes. I stand, then drop my open-toed sandals on the floor. I’m not interested in finishing my shift, or sticking around to count my tips, or waiting for my best friend, Macey, to get off work. I need to leave. Dressing quickly, I scrawl a message on a bar napkin and slip it between the vents on Macey’s locker.
The message reads
, Gone fishing.
Secret code for
I need to be alone.
Macey knows where I’ll be: Bob Hall Pier on Padre Island. There’s nothing special about the place. It has a few wood picnic tables and benches, concrete showers, and bathrooms. It’s the view I love. Under a full moon, nothing is more enticing than the Gulf of Mexico. And if I get lucky, I’ll see the electric-blue glow of Portuguese man-o’-wars floating in the water.
I scan the room to make sure I didn’t forget anything and zip my bag. Noting the time on the wall clock above the vanity (eleven thirty), I’ll try to make it back in time to meet Macey after the club closes. I slip into my sandals and leave the empty dressing room. The hostess booth where I pay tip-out is around the corner by the front entrance. I squint to see who’s on the back stage. Macey is dancing on the bed of the red 1957 Chevy pickup.
The DJ booth is about twenty-five feet from the T-shaped main stage, which connects to a narrow catwalk that wraps around the back. There are half a dozen big screens situated around the club and various neon beer signs hanging on the paneled walls. Sports memorabilia, mostly autographed photographs of Dallas Cowboys who have visited the club, are proudly showcased over the main bar. Pool tables and the pickup are in an adjoining room with a second bar. Six high-top tables and a sofa and love seat are off to the side so dancers and customers can hold intimate conversations while they wait for a pool table to open up. Of course, that’s where the dirtiest table dances take place—bouncers tend to overlook that area most, focusing on the main room and VIP. That’s why I like this bar. Everything is visible from anywhere.
I wave. Macey smiles. I go to the hostess booth and Mama Beth greets me with genuine concern.
“Did you check out with the DJ?” she asks, leaning in close to be heard over the blare of Metallica.
She eyes me sympathetically, then says, “I saw what happened, sweetheart. You’ve got to learn to get over it. Men are beasts in any setting.”
She always means well, but trying to minimize the effects of behavior that’s socially repugnant even for a strip bar upsets me right now. The day I give these guys a free pass is the day I give up all hope for humanity. Somewhere, men still possess a shred of honor. They don’t grab handfuls of ass or whisper filthy things unfit for a prostitute to hear. I throw down thirty dollars and stuff an extra ten in Mama’s shirt pocket.
“Thanks, Mama,” I say. “I’ll see you Friday.” I head for the door.
“Wait,” she calls.
I don’t look back. The last person I want escorting me outside is Craig. My car is parked pretty close. I walk briskly to the 1976 Camaro that I adore. I unlock the door, climb in, jam in the key, and rev the engine. My baby needs a paint job, but the engine purrs. I check my rearview mirror before backing out. I do a double take. Craig blocks my path. His arms are folded defiantly over his broad chest. I know he isn’t going to budge until I talk
I climb out, leaving the engine running for quick escape. The September night air is humid, and I wipe a drop of sweat from my forehead with the back of my hand.
“You can’t keep doing this, Robyn,” Craig scolds. Bouncers typically manage the dancers.
He sighs. The man doesn’t understand the word
One date a few months ago doesn’t mean I’ve made a lifelong commitment. If his brains matched his brawn, I might have tried harder. His IQ doesn’t even meet Neanderthal standards. However, his biggest problem is keeping his dick in his pants. That killed any chance he had with me, and he resents me for it.
“Come back inside and finish your shift.”
I snort, meeting his heated gaze. “Go away.”
He yanks me close. “We’re not finished, Robyn, not by a long shot.”
He lets go. His caramel-colored eyes are rimmed with long, dark eyelashes. Beautiful, really, just like every inch of him. He’s a fine specimen—but I’m not doing a science project. I shake my head and go back to my car. I climb inside. Craig has moved to the sidewalk in front of me.
I lock the door. Then I flip on the radio. “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin blares from my brand-new Alpine speakers. Classic rock goes with my car. I back out and speed away.
Half an hour later, I pull into the pier parking lot. The place is mostly dark and empty. City parks close at eleven. I don’t care, and grab the small backpack I carry everywhere from my backseat. The pier manager stays late, and if I slip him a twenty, he lets me through the gate. I walk a hundred yards, my sandals sounding like horse hooves clapping against cobblestones on the wood planks of the pier. The manager looks up from his desk and waves me in without payment. I smile and mouth
he won’t hear me through the bulletproof glass. I head to the end of the dock. I stop at the last bench and spread a towel I retrieve from my backpack over the wood seat so I don’t get splinters in my backside. I stare across the black water—this is what I need. The sound of rolling waves and the smell of salt air relax me. I lean over the crudely made railing.
Today is my anniversary. Five years ago, my mother packed my clothes in two Hefty bags and kicked me out of her house without explanation. Although I’ve always suspected it was because I told her Uncle Gregory touched me inappropriately and tried to get me drunk at a family dinner the year before. Who can compete with my uncle? He’s loved and adored, and I’m just me. I’m not alone. You hear similar stories all the time . . . families shunning children who speak up, who make allegations about abuse. And once I disappeared from Odem, no one looked for me, not even lifelong friends from our church. Who knows what Mom told them? I rub my arms, chilled by the remembrance of the day I knew I had to leave.
The fateful conversation with my mom haunts me mercilessly . . .
I’m sitting in my bedroom, reading a book. Someone knocks on my door. I look up. My mother looms in the doorway, frowning. “What’s wrong, Mom?”
She steps inside and then sits on the edge of my bed. She hiccups. I smell alcohol. She’s shaky—drunk. “I don’t like you, Robyn.”
I close my book and set it on my desk. Nothing new. “Why are you telling me this now? Did I forget to do the dishes or something?” This isn’t the first time she’s told me she dislikes me. In fact, it happens so often, I’ve been desensitized to a certain degree. But deep down, it still hurts.
She cackles like a witch. Further proof she’s been hitting the bottle. She likes to do that when my father is gone on business trips. “Don’t sass me.”
“I’m not. What
“You act like a slut in front of everyone.”
I nearly fall out of my chair. “What?” I ask incredulously. That’s the most twisted thing she’s ever said to me.
“The way you dress—those short-shorts and tank tops. I can’t let you look that way anymore.”
I nearly puke. My mother is beyond intoxicated, definitely not thinking straight. I search for any viable excuse. For her, and for me. I prefer to forget this conversation ever started. “I wear shorts to go running,” I say in my defense.
“I see the way you shake your ass. Boys stare; you’re turning out to be an exhibitionist. Sleazy . . .” She coughs.
I stand up. I’m not going to sit here and listen to this crap. “Stop it!” I scream.
She laughs again. “The truth hurts, doesn’t it?”
“How can you talk about your own daughter that way?”
She scoots to the edge of the bed. “If I didn’t know better,” she says, “I’d swear my biological child was accidently switched with you at birth.”