The Right Price

Chapter 9

Collins

I was still a nervous mess after last night, and not because I had made a fool of myself by trying to entice a man through the motions of dance, or the fact that the VIP room had turned into an orgy worthy of any porn movie.

No.

While I should have felt a little embarrassment about my no-rhythm-having dance, or about how I’d had to struggle not to watch the strippers and servers getting screwed out in the open, it wasn’t either of those things that had kept me up last night.

It had been the money.

After Evander had walked out of the private room, I had immediately walked over to Lita with the money, not sure what to do with it. Since I’d never given a lap dance before, I had no idea how the money was handled, so I had gone straight to Lita.

She had been kind enough to lead me back to the room, and she had shown me a small hidey-hole in the wall near the music consol. It had reminded me of an ATM machine with the way it worked. Lita had explained that it was timed along with the music and knew how much was to be deposited. The total appeared on the tiny screen, and you fed in the cash. She’d said that it helped to keep the dancers honest. The screen didn’t clear until the correct amount was deposited. I had literally been floored by the technology of it all. Carver Sullivan was not a stupid man, that’s for sure.

However, after I had deposited the two-hundred dollars, I had immediately gone to my locker to put away Evander’s tip. Rushing to get back to the VIP room to finish my shift, I hadn’t counted the money until I had gotten home last night.

Two-freakin’-thousand dollars.

After I had gotten home, checked on Nan, then had showered the club’s sins from my body, I had pulled out all my tips and had been ready to do the math for our bills’ sake. My hands had immediately begun to shake when I had pulled out Evander’s tip and had counted out two-thousand dollars. The sheer dollar amount had taken my breath away, and it had honestly felt as if I had just robbed a bank or something just as equally risky.

It had felt like both a curse and a blessing, and my heart still raced when I thought about how much money sat in my bank account now. I’d always prided myself on my moral limits, but Evander handing me two-thousand dollars had skewed those limits, and it hadn’t been that hard to do. That was the problem with easy money; it was like a drug. I had simply danced for the guy, and he had handed me two-thousand dollars for it, like it was no big deal.

I had laid awake, seeing the strippers in a whole different light. They had money tossed at them for doing the same thing that I’d done last night, only they did it with their clothes off. They didn’t have to sleep with any of those patrons to make the money that they made. They simply had to close their eyes and ears to the environment around them and get lost in the music.

As for the girls who did sleep with the patrons, if everyone was safe, then that could be considered easy money, too. For a few minutes or hours, they gave and received pleasure, then went about their business. No one at the club was working their fingers to the bone in the fields, or working long office hours, or getting yelled at by rude customers who had asked for no mustard.

While I hadn’t wanted it to, my mind had drifted to thoughts of what Evander would have paid had I removed my clothes. What would I have earned had I been experienced? What would Evander had tipped me if I had removed my bra and/or underwear? What would he have felt obligated to pay if I had ridden my hips over his lap, making him cum?

My thoughts had been shameful, but there’d been no denying the sense of relief that I had also felt at knowing that I could afford Nan’s medication for the time being. Though I still had every intention of still searching for generic brands, rebates, or coupons for her medication, the ledge wasn’t looking so far down anymore. Thanks to Evander’s generosity, I had some breathing room now, and that was also an addictive feeling. Like the girls at the club, I was viewing gold-digging socialites in a whole other light, too. Depending on the way you were raised, financial security could also feel like one of the worse drugs out there. Never mind if you were trying to secure that financial security for someone that you loved. Would I ever stay in a horrible marriage if it meant being able to support my children? Probably. It was so easy to judge when you had everything, but what about when you had nothing? What would you be willing to do in order to survive when you had nothing?

I shook my head out of those depressing thoughts. I was walking into The Fourth Face to start my shift, and I needed to be on my A-game. The cash tips were great for emergency cash, so I needed to always have my customer service face on.

Walking inside, I said hi to Kit, one of the bartenders, then headed back to the employee locker room. As I walked to the locker room, I could easily see that it was probably going to be a packed night tonight. The place already looked pretty full, and it was only four in the afternoon. Now, a lot of people looked to be having a drink after work, but there were more acceptable places to have a drink after a long workday. I had no doubt that some of the patrons that were here right now were going to do an entire shift of drinking and hitting up the pretty girls.

However, before I could make it back to the locker room, Lita was walking out of her office, stopping to speak with me. “Hey, Collins,” she greeted. “Do you have a second?”

“Of course.” She was the club manager, so I would always have time for her. Only an idiot would be too busy not to recognize her question as the command that it was.

“Carver wants to see you,” she said, and my stomach dropped. “He wanted me to send you right up as soon as you got here.”

“Is…does he need me to cover one of the VIP rooms again?”

“I don’t know,” she answered. “I didn’t ask, kid.” She softened her rebuttal with a wink. “If Carver wants me to know something, then he’ll tell me.”

I grinned despite the nervousness about my meeting. “Understood, ma’am.”

“I’m sure that it’s fine, Collins,” she said. “You’re hardly one to cause trouble.”

Giving her a terse nod, I made my way to the locker room to put my things up before meeting Carver. Since I didn’t want to keep Carver waiting, I decided to meet with him before changing. I always wore flowy summer dresses to the club because they were so much easier to change into and out of. Just one quick whip over my head and I was in my underwear only. It helped on the nights when I was really tired and just wanted to get home. While I did my best not to complain about my three jobs, some weeks were tougher than others. In fact, if Nan’s medical costs kept going up, or if her health worsened, I might have to pick up a fourth job. As long as it was willing to work with my current work schedule, it could be done. I currently had Tuesday nights, Wednesday mornings, and Friday mornings open. I had Saturday morning opened too-just in case-but I’d like to save at least one day to spend some real time with Nan.

After quickly putting my purse and tote away, I headed towards Carver’s office. I saw a couple of the club’s bouncers, greeted them, then headed upstairs.

As soon as I reached the landing, Diesel stepped to the side to give me access to Carver’s walkway. He smiled, and I smiled back. Looking at him, no one would guess that he was the type of guy that let his little niece paint his nails. Most people thought that his painted nails were some sort of emo/grunge look that he might be going for.

How wrong they were.

Knocking on the door, I waited for Carver to give me permission to enter before I turned the doorknob. As soon as the door opened, my feet tripped with the sight before me. Carver was sitting at his desk, per usual, but he wasn’t alone in the room. Standing on the right side of the room, his hands in his slacks, looking like he had all the time in the world, was Evander Kendrick.

Carver stood up from his chair. “Come in, Collins,” he instructed. “Shut the door behind you, please.”

On autopilot, I did as Carver commanded, and it was a miracle that my legs were functioning at all. Out of all the things that I had imagined, it had never occurred to me that Evander would be a part of this meeting.

Then it hit me.

The money.

Evander had to be here about the money. While he looked like two-thousand dollars was ashtray change, I didn’t know the man. I had no idea what his finances were, and two-thousand dollars was a lot of money, no matter how much you earned a year. He had probably gotten home last night and realized his mistake. It was dark in the private rooms, so he must have grabbed the wrong amount of bills from his wallet.

Luckily, I hadn’t spent any of it, but now I was back to figuring out how I was supposed to pay for Nan’s medication.

Suddenly, today felt very, very heavy.

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