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Exquisite Trouble

By:Ann Mayburn

kbones, and a solid jaw with narrow, deep-set eyes that lent him an almost sinister air. I don’t know what it was about him, but he seemed to radiate danger. The bouncers certainly kept an eye on him, but he was as well behaved as could be, just like the previous nights he’d been at my work.

Despite the fact that we were currently in the best strip club in Houston with some amazingly beautiful women working it on the stages, he watched only me with a singular intensity that at once threatened and aroused me. I wanted to raise my serving tray between us, to hide from his hot gaze currently devouring me. While my micro black satin shorts and tight black tank top embellished with the club’s name in shimmering gold script on the front would have been scandalous at, say, the grocery store, here in the strip club I looked positively modest; I couldn’t understand his fascination with me.

Sugar, a stunning redhead, danced on the stage closest to the man who made my heart beat faster and kept giving him smiles that he didn’t return, while she showed him things on her body only her gynecologist had seen.

The dancers were in a tizzy about this man, each wanting to be the one he picked for a dance for some reason. They’d mentioned something about him being a part of Iron Horse so I assumed that had to be a band or something. He almost fit the image of a rock star, but his looks were rougher, a little more badass, and while he was certainly charismatic, he didn’t turn on the charm with anyone.

Well, anyone except me.

For me, he turned on the charm and it was devastating.

That didn’t stop the dancers from fighting over him like a piece of prime steak. The club had a two-dance minimum and he always bought exactly two, fifty-dollar dances and tipped well. The girls varied, never the same one twice, but they all busted out their best moves in an effort to impress him. While I knew he enjoyed those dances, if I happened to be in the area he’d watch me through the whole thing, capturing my gaze and making my heart race even as I tried to ignore my odd jealousy at the sight of the other women shaking their tits in his face. And he’d never taken anyone to the VIP room.

He lifted his empty water bottle and I couldn’t pretend to ignore him anymore.

I purposely moved between my tables, easily avoiding any touches from the patrons. It cost a couple bills to get into the club, so we catered to our customers by not cramming a bunch of tables together. There was actually room to move around and it was filled with beautiful women on the prowl. The club had a strict hands-off policy regarding all the women who worked there, and they enforced it, which was the only reason I chose to work at a strip club. Yeah, it paid the bills and allowed me to get my Master’s in Accounting, but the real reason was because I could go through my workday without the chance of someone touching me. I have … issues ... that make it feel like centipedes are crawling all over my skin when a stranger, or someone I don’t trust, touches me. Also, I can’t read social cues like a normal person, so I never lasted long at a traditional job. Generally, most people touch each other all the time, but no matter how careful I was, the casual touches would eventually cause me to throw up.

Don’t get me wrong, some people can touch me just fine, or I have no problem once I learn to trust them, but they were few and far between.

The handsome man smiled at me when I got close enough to hear him over the booming bass. “Can I get another?”

His voice was like velvet against my skin, and I hoped he didn’t notice my little shiver. “Sure.”

And that was the grand total of our exchange. I took the empty from his table and made my way through the bar, getting him a new bottle of water while the bartender gave me a knowing smile. I’ve never been very good at hiding my emotions and knew that, right now, the mix of confusion, lust, and worry must be filling my face. Clad in an outfit similar to mine, the stunning brunette bartender and my friend, Tansy, handed over the water.

“He ask for your number yet?”

“What?”

She shook her head at me and said loudly over the music, “He wants you, bad. Just remember, you can’t be seen taking his number. Have him write it down on a napkin and leave it on the table. That way when you’re cleaning up you can get it without getting busted for talking with a customer outside of the bar.”

I had to resist the urge to look over my shoulder. There was no way he was interested in me like that. I wasn’t even sure if I was interested in him romantically. I was a twenty-year-old virgin for no reason other than I’ve never been attracted to a man enough before to consider having sex with him. But with the handsome man occupying my thoughts, it was all too easy to imagine slipping between cool, crisp sheets naked with his rock-solid, tattooed body.

“Um, okay.”

Laughing, Tansy leaned her elbows on the bar. “Swan, you’re beautiful. I don’t know who fucked with your head and made you believe otherwise, but you are gorgeous. Blonde hair, blue eyes, a natural tan and fantastic real tits, you’re the total California girl package. I know you think he’s hot. He’s been in here three nights in a row and always makes sure to sit in your section, so flirt with him a little. I promise you that if you so much as smile at that man he’ll be putty in your hands. Now take your magnificent ass over there and get his number.”

I wanted the ground to open beneath me. Compliments made me feel extremely uncomfortable; I never knew for sure if someone was being sincere or not, so I tended to just brush them off. Gathering up my stuff, I flashed her my practiced smile. “Thanks for the advice.”

The music switched to a heavy rap song while I made my way back to the mystery man’s table and I found myself swaying to the beat as I walked, enjoying the pulsating rhythm. Out of nowhere some stranger smacked my ass and I ju

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