Warning: Dubious consensual sex. No nudity, though.
Five years ago:
“You want me to break them?”
Eden looked over at the guy threatening to break his legs. He liked Liam O’Brien, they were friends. The guy even had a kid Bellamy’s age. But in this line of work, you sometimes had to hurt your friends. He understood that.
He spit out some of the blood in his mouth. “No, I don’t want you to do that.”
“Good. So you’ll get the money?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll get the money.”
“I’ll have it this time next week. I’m running solo now so it’ll take a couple more days.”
O’Brien studied him for a second before he nodded and backed off. “Alright. I’ll stall for a few more days but don’t make me have to come find you again. I gotta do my job, you know?”
“Yeah, I know O. I know.”
O’Brien patted him once against his bruised cheek before turning and walking away.
Eden waited until he was sure he was alone and then slumped against the alley wall. His face and ribs hurt. O’Brien was a big dude and he hit hard. Eden would have to find some way to get that money.
Two Years Ago:
“That guy is in here almost every night. You fucking him?”
“What?” Lorde looked at Jimmy Marino, bemused. She knew whom he was talking about and if she were in Jimmy’s shoes, she’d probably ask the same question.
“You fucking that guy?” Jimmy raised a brow.
“What if I was?”
“He’s not paying enough.” He grinned at her.
Jimmy was a good guy. A little rough around the edges, a little grabby with the girls, but overall, a good guy. “No Jimmy, we’re not having sex.”
Jimmy snorted. “If you were any of my other girls, I’d call you a liar. But you’re good Baby, I trust you.”
She smiled at Jimmy. He most definitely did not trust her, even though she’d never given him a reason not to. There were cameras in all the back rooms, as well as in the main club where the girls danced. Jimmy trusted no one and she couldn’t complain. He tried to keep them safe and that’s all she could ask for in an employer.
“Listen, Jimmy, I came in here to ask for next week off. I have to visit my mom, it’s been a while.” Five years, actually. Not since Kieran.
“Yeah, sure Baby. You deserve a break.” Jimmy said and then frowned at his computer screen. He waved his hand, a clear sign of dismissal and Lorde said her thanks before walking out of the room.
Waving to one of the nicer girls, she made her way to the bar. She had maybe half an hour before she was on. Sighing, she sat on a barstool and drank the water that Angel placed in front of her. She didn’t drink. Alcohol was vile and a disgusting habit. It made you do and say things you normally wouldn’t. It left you with little to no control.
As she skimmed the club, she saw a few of the girls give her looks. She wasn’t well liked. Not that she cared about what others thought of her. Still, she’d tried when she first started to work there to make some friends. Someone had asked about where she was from and when she told them, they’d immediately changed. It wasn’t until then that she’d realized her mistake. She should have known that these women would associate Hidden Springs with the mega-rich. Some of the other dancers thought she was conceited and snobbish, even though she’d given them no reason to think so. In fact, she’d been nothing but quiet and demure. But that one slip had ruined everything.
Lorde sat, thinking about her first few weeks at the club and didn’t notice when a man sat down next to her. It wasn’t until he put his hand on her thigh that she was brought back to the present.
Pasting a fake smile on her lips, she said in a sultry voice, “Hey there suga.”
“You on the clock?” The guy gave her a friendly smile.
She shrugged, she still had fifteen minutes. “I have a few. It’s been a while, Mikey.”
“Yeah, well every time I stop by, you’re busy and you know I don’t like anyone else.” Mikey Lombardi was one of her regulars – at least he used to be before she got married and stopped working regular shifts.
“Sorry, Mikey. I’ll talk to Jimmy.” Like hell she would. Mikey was a grabber, case in point, his hand was still on her thigh, even though she had a strict no touching rule. “I do have a client tonight. He’s going to be here in a few minutes actually and I still need to get ready.”
Not for the first time, she wondered why Kieran never came to see her. He used to keep everyone away. She only worked three nights a week now that she had a husband. It was her compromise, to keep him happy. She used to bring in more money from Kieran than any of the other girls. But he didn’t seem interested in coming to see her dance anymore. He had to stay home with his son now.
Mikey’s hand tensed on her leg. “But he’s not here now. I just need five minutes.”
Trying not to let her smile slip, she nodded. He wouldn’t even need that long.
She slipped off the stool, grabbed his hand and began threading her way to an unoccupied room.
As she chose a song from the iPod in the corner, she heard him start to undo his belt. Mikey paid for extra privileges.
She shook her head at the slight revulsion that coursed through her stomach. She’d become too spoiled with Kieran and had forgotten that this was the real reason men came to a place like this. It wasn’t for her skills as a conversationalist but because she was beautiful. They could come here and relieve themselves and she would always be willing, always receptive. They could take their frustrations against the female population out on her. Call her dirty, demeaning names, and she would let them. Most women would be bothered by it but she didn’t mind too much. Or at least she used to not mind. Before Kieran.
Boys will be boys, right mama?
And for the few that could afford it, they would use her like Mikey was doing right now. Objectify her and turn her into 3-D porn, and she would smile and dance through it all. Thank God for the dancing. It helped her focus. Before she came to this town, she’d been with the Roaring Heights Academy of Dance. If it hadn’t been for the loss of her grandmother’s monetary support, she’d have graduated and joined the company. She would have never become a stripper. Would have never met Kieran.
When the music began to play, she took a deep breath and started to move. When she danced, she felt alive, sexy and powerful. That there was a stranger staring at her body made it even more appealing. Mama once told her that men were good for only two things, sex and money, and finding a man good at sex with lots of money was a crapshoot.
She’d won the jackpot with Kieran.
When Mikey was done, he pulled up his pants and smiled contentedly. “You know, I’ve been coming here for years, Baby. One of these days, you’re gonna let me take you out on a date.”
Turning the music off, her back was to him and she rolled her eyes. “Yeah, Mikey. One day.”
She felt his hand snake around her body and grab one of her breasts. “One day soon. I’m getting tired of coming in my hand.”
Then he threw some money on the table and left.
Lorde was walking out of the club, a private smile on her face. She was building her clientele back up and it felt good to see the want in their eyes. She’d just unlocked her car door when she heard a noise and looked up. “Jesus Christ, Mikey! You scared the crap out of me!”
“I’ve never seen you wearing so much clothes before…”
Lorde stiffened. Something was off about him. He was drunk. She looked around and noticed they were alone. Gah! She was so stupid!
Mikey reached for her, pushing his hand inside her shirt and cupping one of her breasts. “I love your tits, Baby.”
Lorde stood there, saying nothing. She remembered the last time she’d tried to fight him off. Kieran had come and saved her. She rolled her eyes. She hadn’t needed any saving then. Mikey was grabby, that’s all. He would have left her alone eventually.
She’d been stupid. Walking out of the club alone was a surefire way to get ambushed by drunk idiots. Damn Kieran! This was his fault. She’d forgotten so much about how to survive in this world. He’d made her too comfortable, too lazy.
She was jerked back to the moment when Mikey’s other hand started to pull up her skirt. “I’m tired of waiting, Baby.”
“Shut the fuck up! You think I don’t know about that guy you moved in with, had a baby with? At least you didn’t ruin your body. Let’s see if everything else is working right, hmmm, Lorde?”
Lorde stared at Mikey for a moment. Fucking Kieran, he should have left well enough alone that night. Then she turned and bent over the hood of her car. “Hurry up. I have a husband I need to get to.”
Mikey didn’t need long. He never did.
Six months ago:
Eden stared at the woman sitting across from him. She looked familiar but he couldn’t quite figure out why. “Who did you say you were again?”
“An interested party.”
“Listen, Eden, we can make all this go away. You could be free to go home next week. We just want a small favor.”
“Alistair King. You’re his friend, right?”
“Yeah.” Eden shifted in his seat. What did they want with Alistair? Was she from Federal? No way would he turn his friend in!
“He’s of interest to us.” The woman held up her hand, clearly seeing the refusal in Eden’s eyes. “We don’t want to do anything to him, per se. We would just like you to send us word every now and then about how he’s doing. An old friend of his is curious, that’s all.”
“Some random guy wants to know about my best friend – out of curiosity?”
“Best friend? See, already you’re giving us more information than we had.” The woman sat forward. “We’re not asking for much, just stuff that should be common knowledge. No harm, no foul.”
“Yeah, I’m going to have to pass.” Eden stood up and walked over to the door. “I don’t know who the hell you are or what you want with Alistair but you’re not going to get anything from me.”
The woman gave him a look, pity and disappointment in her eyes. “You’re being a fool. He left you in here to rot for crimes that we know he did. And you can’t even see how he’s played you.”
Eden turned away and banged on the door, ready to go back to his cell.
Claire was just finishing up. It had been another long night but she felt wide awake. It was him! She’d known it the moment he’d walked in. He hadn’t given her his name but she wasn’t too concerned. He would come back, he had to.
She said bye to her boss, who was locking up, hailed a cab on the corner and headed back to her house. She walked in and dropped her keys on the table before heading to the kitchen. She tried not to eat the bar food because – ewww. Making herself a chicken salad, she thought back to their brief conversation. He’d ordered a bourbon and her hand had been shaking so bad, she’d had to concentrate not to spill it.
Siobhan had told her that the man would be a bourbon drinker. And what a fine man he was! A little older than she had expected but no more than five years, maybe?
Claire sat down and ate her salad, contemplating what she would say to him the next time she saw him. He’d seemed so sad and she couldn’t help but try to imagine what had made him so. Maybe he’d just lost his job, or maybe he’d broken up with his girlfriend. Because a guy that fine most definitely was not single.
She found herself lost in the thought of how she would make him laugh next time. Perhaps he would ask her out. She’d have to politely decline, of course, but he would be persistent and she would eventually say yes…
The sound of her cell phone ringing interrupted her daydream. Shit! She’d forgotten to call. “Hi poppa. I’m sorry!”
“You know I worry, Claire bear.” Her father sounded sleepy and Claire felt guilty for keeping him up even longer.
“I know, I’m really sorry. But I’m home and safe. Promise. How are you, poppa? How’s Una and Fraser?”
“I’m well. Everyone is doing just fine. How are you?”
She grinned, unable to hide her excitement. “I’m doing great! I may have met someone.”
Claire rolled her eyes. She could hear the lecture already. “Don’t worry poppa. Nothing has happened and I only just met him. I will be careful, I promise.”
Sighing, her father said, “Well, it’s late my love. I will let you go.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Claire bear.”
Claire woke up to the sound of bickering birds. Angry birds had distinctive trills that could set your teeth on edge – if you could hear them. Being blind had its advantages. Her hearing and sense of smell were much better than average.
She sat up and fumbled around until she found her glasses. Although she could move around her living space with her eyes closed, it was always nice to see the things you wanted to avoid.
A quick shower and equally fast breakfast later and she was ready to meet her potential roommates. Twin sisters, Grace and Emma London. Hopefully, these two would work out. What little she had in savings was getting drained on rent.
“Hello, I’m Claire.” She reached out and shook one of the girl’s hands and then the other.
“I’m Gracie and this is Emma.”
“It’s very nice to meet you.” Her eyes flicked back to the man standing just a few feet behind them.
Gracie smiled. “Oh, don’t worry, that’s our dad. He drove with us here.”
“I see.” Claire looked more closely at the two girls and finally spotted it. Gracie. She was a werewolf, just like her father. But Emma wasn’t. Their mother was probably human. That’s why she hadn’t picked up on it at first. If hadn’t been for the fully grown wolf casually leaning against the hood of their car, she would have never picked up on it.
She wondered if she should bring it up? It was only fair they know what she was if they were going to live with her.
Claire showed the girls the house. “It needs a bit of work and I’ve been doing some remodeling where I can but the foundation is solid and everything works.”
“It’s perfect. Don’t you think Poppa?” Gracie smiled up at her father, who looked at her with an answering one.
“She is a beauty.” He turned to Claire. “How much is the rent?”
“$2700, utilities included. My old roommate and I split it and I could do the same for you guys.” She glanced at the girls. She liked them and was hoping they’d decide they liked her too.
“We’d split it three ways,” Emma said. It was the first time she’d spoken.
“That would work too.” She smiled at the three of them. “Does that mean…”
The two girls turned to look at their dad.
“I’d have to talk it over with Tony but I like it.”
It was now or never. “Just so you know…” Three sets of eyes turned towards her. “My stepmother is Fae.”
“I’m sorry, come again?” She caught Emma’s smile before the girl managed to hide it.
“I’m touched by Fae. I knew the moment I saw you, Mr. London, that you were a werewolf. I’m not saying this to scare you off but I just wanted you to know that this would be a safe zone for Gracie.”
The girl smiled wide at the mention of her name but didn’t say anything. They were good, they were smart.
“Thank you for that information. We will let you know our decision soon.” With that, the three of them walked to the car.
Claire smiled when Gracie turned back to look at her with a quick wink.
They would make good roommates.