Stripped Read online

Page 13

A fist pounds on the dressing room door. “Come on, Grey,” Timothy shouts. “Time to work the floor. It’s a busy Friday—we don’t have time for your emotional bullshit. ”

  I splash water on my face, touch up my makeup, and work the floor. I hate this part as much as dancing on stage. I’m face to face with raw lust.

  I make a killing, which is good since tuition is due soon. The end of my shift nears, and the club begins to empty. I do two more stage numbers, and I cry after each one.

  I leave the stage after my last dance, cry, retouch my makeup, and hit the floor for a few last table and lap dances. It’s almost three in the morning, and the club is mostly empty, except for a few scattered guys by themselves or in small knots. I’m about to clock out when a man gestures to me. He’s young and good-looking, dressed in what was a fancy suit, except now his jacket is off, and his dress shirt is unbuttoned and the tie removed. His torso is bare between the edges of his expensive shirt, tan and hard-looking and rippling with muscle. His eyes are glazed and unfocused, he’s sweating and his hand holding his beer shakes slightly. He eyes me hungrily, gaze lingering on my chest and hips. I unconsciously re-tie the knot in my shirt to make sure my br**sts stay in place; his gaze narrows at the gesture.

  I stop a few feet away from him. “Five bucks for a table dance, ten for a lap dance. ”

  He pulls out a twenty, folded into fourths, and extends it between his index and middle finger. “Jus’ dance for me. Bring it over here. ” His words are slurred, but his gaze is sharp and dangerous-looking.

  A chill runs up my spine as I force myself closer to him. I suck in oxygen and make myself shimmy a little. He watches, lifting his beer bottle to his lips at frequent intervals. I make it sexier, swaying my hips, bending at the waist to give a glimpse down my cle**age. I force myself closer, and he smiles.

  “Turn aroun’,” he slurs.

  I turn around and shake my backside at him in time to the beat of the pop song on the house speakers. I arch my back and lean forward, pushing my bottom at his face. I feel his hands touch me, and I shift away from him. “Ah-ah. No touching. ”

  He doesn’t answer, just smiles with a leering curl of his lip. “Take off th’ shirt, babe. ”

  I smile back at him. “That’s only for stage dances. This is what you get on the floor. You want that, I can bring Candy or Monica over for you. ”

  He digs in his hip pocket and brings out a wad of hundred dollar bills and counts out ten. He rolls them up, and tucks them into the back pocket of my shorts, shoving the wad back into his pants pocket. “I said…take it off. ” He hisses the last part clearly and lucidly, and my skin crawls at the threat of violence in the sound of his voice, in the anger of his gaze.

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  I withdraw the roll of money and hand it back to him. “I’m sorry, sir, but that’s not what I do. ”

  He sneers at me, then pulls out the wad of cash again. He shoves it all at me. “You’re greedy, huh, bitch? ’S almost four grand there. Now. Show me your tits. ”

  I back away from him. “I don’t think so. ” I let my voice harden and glance around for Hank, the bouncer. He’s watching from the chair by the entrance and stands up when I wiggle my fingers at him.

  The customer watches Hank rise to his feet, all six-foot-six of him, and then back to me. “What kinda f**kin’ stripper are you, bitch? Won’t even take off your shirt for a lap dance? Shit. It’s not like I asked you to blow me or some shit. I come to a strip bar expecting to see some tits. You’re gonna turn down four grand to do what you do anyway? Stupid bitch. ” He climbs unsteadily to his feet, drains his beer. He fumbles with the wad of money, then curses under his breath and tosses it on the table. “Fuck it. Fuck it, and f**k you. ” He stumbles toward the door, with Hank trailing behind him. He stops in the doorway, wavering, turns back and stares at me, and something in his gaze makes me afraid. Hank gives him a gentle nudge out the door, and then he’s gone.

  I gather the wad of money off the table and count it; there’s $3,900 in hundreds and fifties. I glance at Candy, Monica, and Iris, who are counting their own tips at the bar while drinking margaritas. Candy is still naked except for her thong, her huge br**sts brushed with glitter of some kind. Monica and Iris are in dressing gowns open to their navels. I’m the only one of the girls who works at the club who stays clothed…except for when I’m dancing on stage. Not that the shirt counts as clothed, necessarily, since my br**sts are basically bared.

  All three women pretend not to watch me. Candy is working to keep a roof over her and her teenaged son’s heads, Monica has a severely autistic son with special medical needs, and Iris is like me, working her way through school. All of them are as desperate for cash as I am.

  I recount the money, adding a hundred from my tips, dividing it evenly four ways, then deposit the stacks of a thousand dollars in front of each of the other girls. “I didn’t really do anything to earn this,” I say. “It’s only fair that I spread it around. ”

  Candy shoots me a grateful glance. “You didn’t have to do that, honey. It was your table. ”

  I shrug. “It’s fine. He didn’t really mean to leave it, he was just too hammered to get it back into his pocket. ”

  The girls laugh, as we’ve all seen men leave too drunk to even know their own names. Usually, though, they don’t leave thousands of dollars lying around. The girls all hug me as thanks, finish their drinks, and cut their tips. I sit at the bar, but Brad brings me a Sprite; he knows I don’t drink. With the extra grand, I’ve pulled in more than $1,500 tonight, which means I’ll have enough to pay the university and still buy the new pair of heels I’ve been needing for the internship. Tim had left around midnight, leaving Brad and Hank to close up. The girls leave before me, so Brad’s Explorer, Hank’s F-350, and my borrowed Rover are the only cars in the lot.

  I dress in yoga pants, flip-flops, and a loose pink T-shirt that slips off the round of one shoulder. I’m grateful to have a bra on again, as spending so many hours without one is uncomfortable, given the size and weight of my br**sts. Hank walks me out because I’m parked near the back of the lot. He realized halfway across the lot that he’d forgotten his keys and headed back in. The parking lot is empty and I’m only twenty feet from where I parked so I don’t wait. A street lamp sheds sickly orange light on the edge of the lot, casting long, deep shadows. I’ve done this dozens of time but for some reason, my skin crawls. I stop in the center of the lot, considering going back in and waiting for Hank to walk me to my car, but my car is right there. I click the “unlock” button on the Rover key fob and the lights blink and turn on. As I move closer, the hair on the back of my neck prickles. My heart is suddenly hammering. I peer into the shadows, clutching the keys until my knuckles turn white. I tell myself there’s nothing to be afraid of.

  Then, as I reach for the handle of the car door, I realize there is something to be afraid of. A cold, clammy hand closes on my wrist and jerks me backward into a hard male chest. Hot breath on my ear smells of beer. Cruel fingers dig into my ribs, clutch upward, grasp my left breast hard enough to steal my breath.

  “Now…now you’ll take it off. ” His voice is an evil murmur in my ear.

  He grasps the neck of my shirt where it hangs over my shoulder and tugs it down, almost gently at first, then with increasing force until it begins to rip and pull at my neck. He lets go of my wrist to clap a hand over my mouth. His other hand darts down my shirtfront. His fingers dig into my breast, pinching and mashing. I whimper, and then find my resolve. I lift my foot and smash down on his instep. He doesn’t release me but hops on one foot, cursing. I don’t have time to kick him again before his hand leaves my mouth and curls around my throat with brutal strength. My air supply is cut off, and I can’t scream. He shoves me forward against the cool car door, hand around my throat. His other hand yanks down my yoga pants, shoving them down on one side, then the other. My panties go with them. I kick and thrash, but I