“Two nights in a row, mate?” the bouncer asked, taking my cover the next evening. “Never though’ you’d find a Shelia here you liked tha’ much.”
I shrugged, not wanting a conversation. “First time for everything, mate.”
“Well, have fun.” He raised an eyebrow as I headed towards the bar.
The bouncers at Kali’s seemed like assholes. I suppose that’s part of the job. Maybe the quiet one, T.W., wasn’t bad, but Thad (Who the hell named their kid “Thad” in the nineties?), with his cocky attitude and Australian accent… What a dick. Everyone knew he and Morgan Starr had history, but I’m sure that wouldn’t stop him from fucking the other dancers. A tale as old as time: bouncers and strippers hooking up. So help me if he hit on Shelby…
Shelby’s face lit up when she saw me, and she excused herself from a customer to head over and join me. “I missed ya after my set last night! Are ya all right?”
“Yeah, a friend of mine needed a ride home from a bar. You know how it is, not everyone can hold their liquor,” I lied.
Her brown-sugar-colored braids bobbed as she nodded. “My uncle is like that! Dad always has—had to…”
My hand slide over hers—such soft skin!—as her words trailed off. “I’m sorry.”
“Me, too.” She shook her head, then clinked her glass against mine. “To fresh starts.”
“To fresh starts.”
Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Three nights a week for a month of me and her. Drinks, a private dance every now and then, talking as if no one else existed in the club, in the world. I went home every night with the smell of her cherry blossom body spray to help me relieve the buildup of tension.
Never in my life had I wanted more of a woman like I wanted more of Shelby.
As we sat sipping our drinks (she had me hooked on Jack and Coke), I became one of those guys I always thought were pitiful. “I’d do anything to hook up with a girl like you, you know. You’re perfect.”
One shoulder lifted in a half-shrug. “Ah, you’re so sweet, but hooking up in a place like this ain’t a good idea.” A cryptic smile turned the corners of her mouth up. “B’sides, Jared baby—” she leaned in close to me, nipping my earlobe “—ya know we’re all man-eaters here.”
I can’t remember all the little details after the feel of her teeth on my skin, but my lips were on hers and our tongues were dancing a heartbeat later.
Shelby didn’t pull away… at first.
When she did… the look on her face… Confusion? Disgust? Wanting? Yes, there was wanting there alongside other things, but I never got to ask her about it.
Asshole Thad’s hands were on my shoulders. T.W. guided Shelby over to Morgan Starr, who shot me the dirtiest look I’d ever seen, then wrapped an arm around Shelby’s shoulders. I glanced back as Asshole Thad guided me towards the doors; Shelby’s eyes glistened as she watched me go.
I knew I wouldn’t be allowed back in Kali’s Cabaret, but Shelby’s tears told me she wanted me as much as I wanted her.
The knock on my car window nearly gave me a heart attack. I’d stared at the club doors for so long, I must have dozed off or been in a trance. T.W. motioned for me to roll it down, his face blank.
He crossed his arms over his chest. “I get it, dude—you wouldn’t be the first guy to get hooked on one of these girls, but I can’t let you stay. You know you’re not allowed here anymore.”
It was good the things I wanted to say didn’t come out: “Fuck you. Fuck this place. Fuck your mother.” The “nice” bouncer probably would’ve become less so. Before he could say anything else, I started the car and sped from the lot, tires squealing, as he watched.
I drove around for five minutes, then looped back and parked in the lot behind the bar next to Kali’s Cabaret. They couldn’t say anything if I wasn’t in their parking lot…