I stared at myself in the full-length mirror, and I couldn’t believe how nervous I was. I had a serious fear that I was going to throw up all over the stage, ruining the club’s image completely.
When I’d made the decision to dance for extra income, I had been confident in my decision. Comfortable in my own skin, I hadn’t been too worried that I’d freak out once Friday night came around. However, it was now Friday night, and I was freaking the hell out.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t the nudity that had me close to vomiting everywhere. It was my lack of dancing skills. While I’d been doing my best to practice in my spare time, I wasn’t graceful in the least. I had no dancing talent whatsoever, and I was going to go up there with professional strippers. I was going to be showcased on a Friday night, and I was going to be showcased right along the girls who knew how to be seductive like they knew their own names.
When I had approached Carver with my request to dance, he hadn’t immediately said no. He had asked me why, then had asked if I was sure, then had asked me if I was sure a second time, then a third, and then a fourth. After I had made it clear that I was certain of my decision, Carver had gone a step further and had offered to give me a raise and/or loan to help with Nan’s medical costs. His gesture had brought me to tears, as it had been the nicest thing that anyone had ever done for me.
Declining his charity, Carver had agreed to let me dance, but not before asking what had happened between me and Evander. While he had made it clear that my life was my business, he couldn’t discount the coincidence of the timing. I’d never had a desire to dance before my night with Evander, so why now? Feeling like Carver was my only real friend in the world, I had told him everything, including how I’d been ignoring all of Evander’s texts.
So, foregoing the lecture and/or advice, Carver had agreed to let me dance, but nervousness had me wishing that Carver had lectured me instead.
I turned at Lita’s voice. “Yeah?”
“Daydreaming?” she asked, a small grin playing on her lips.
I glanced around and realized that I had managed to tune out all the backstage noise that was going on in the dressing room. Dancers were either getting ready to go on stage or coming back off stage. My anxiousness had made me deaf, blind, and dumb to everything around me.
“Yeah, I guess,” I answered sheepishly.
Her eyes scanned the length of me. “You look great.”
I glanced down at my body, and I wasn’t being conceited when admitting that the outfit did look good on me, though it left little to the imagination. Delia, one of the dancers, had helped me pick out my outfit, and it was uncanny how the blue bra and panties matched the colors of my eyes perfectly, making them pop out more. Delia had also slathered my skin with some shimmery lotion that smelled subtly female, but she hadn’t gone overboard with it.
“Thanks,” I muttered as I looked back at her.
“Collins, Evander is here,” she announced, and my stomach immediately rolled.
“Evander is here,” she repeated. “He’s waiting in my office for you.”
I could feel my heart speed up, and if I thought that I’d been feeling nervous before, that was nothing compared to what I was feeling now.
Evander was here.
Lita arched a brow. “I imagine for the same reason that he asked for that lap dance last week, Collins,” she said pointedly. “Whatever is going on between you two, he’s here to talk to you.”
“Does…does he know that I’m scheduled to dance tonight?” I asked, even though it made me sound like a child in trouble.
Lita nodded. “Yes, he does.” Then her face softened. “I imagine that’s part of the conversation that he wants to have.”
“Does Carver know that he’s here?”
“Not yet,” she replied. “But Carver’s office is my next stop.”
“Does Evander seem…upset?” I asked hesitantly.
“What do you think?”
“I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew,” I blurted.
“I agree,” Lita returned with a touch of warning in her voice.
Taking a deep breath, I decided to grow a pair and finally face Evander. “Okay…I’ll…I’ll make sure that he’s gone before my set begins-”
Lita snorted. “Honey, if you think that man is going to let you dance for a bunch of men that aren’t him, then you really do live in a world where the glass is half-full.”
“He’s not my husband,” I pointed out.
“No,” she agreed softly. “But he is something. Am I right?”
Deciding not to answer the obvious, I said, “I’m going to go see what he wants.”
“Sure thing, kid,” she replied easily.
The butterflies were no joke as I made my way to Lita’s office. Luckily, I’d had the presence of mind to grab a robe before leaving the dressing room. While the robe was short and provided no real protection against anything, it did cover up the essentials, and that’s what mattered.
Gathering up as much courage as possible, I opened the door to Lita’s office, and I walked in to see Evander pacing the room. He immediately stopped pacing, and as his brown eyes took me in, I almost clenched my thighs with all the memories of Saturday night.
Evander slid his hands into his pockets, his back straightening, ready for a fight. “Want to tell me why in the fuck you haven’t been answering my texts?”
Shutting the door behind me, I walked further into the room before answering him. “It was my understanding that Saturday night was a…one off.”
“A one off?” he echoed, the steel in his voice letting me know just how pissed off he was.
“Yeah, you know…taking a girl home from here.”
“I didn’t take a girl home from here,” he spat. “I took you home.”
“Yeah, a girl that you paid ten-thousand dollars to have sex with,” I continued, hating how my jumbled emotions wanted to make an appearance. “That’s not how genuine relationships start out, Evander.”
“Yeah, ten-thousand dollars that you didn’t take,” he pointed out. “So, that’s my next question. Why in the fuck didn’t you take the money?”
Staring at him in his beautiful face, I told him the truth. “I decided I’d rather earn it honestly than on my back.”
“Bullshit,” he snapped. “I want the fucking truth, Collins.”
“That is the truth,” I insisted, though it wasn’t the full truth.
Evander’s steps were sure and purposeful, and before I knew it, he had me pressed up against the wall, his hands pressing against the wall on either side of me, caging me in. “You’re lying.”
“What is going on, Collins?” he asked, and my heart felt like it was trying to run away from all the hope that I felt whenever Evander was near me.
“I just…I thought that I could do it, but-”
“Taking that money would have…I’d rather earn it…than…than turn what we did into…into…”
“I didn’t pay you for sex, Collins,” he said, and that just confused me further.
“I gave you the money because I know about your grandmother and your three jobs,” he clarified, surprising me that he knew that about me. “I proposed sex because I didn’t think that you’d take the money otherwise.”
“So, better a whore than a charity case?” I snapped, embarrassed by my entire life right now.
“Neither,” he bit out. “You are neither, baby.”
Much to my dismay, I could feel the pressure behind my eyes start to produce tears, and that was not what I needed right now. I was set to dance on stage in an hour and crying like a hot mess would not be ideal.
“No,” he interrupted as he straightened to look down at me. “We’re talking about this, and we’re not leaving this office until we clear a few things up.”
“But…but I have to dance in an hour-”
“The fuck you are.”