Authors: Aurora Rose Reynolds
The Underground Kings Series
Aurora Rose Reynolds
Copyright © 2014 Crystal Aurora Rose Reynolds
Edited by Hot Tree edits Mickey edits, Midian Sosa
Book Cover by Mellissa Gill Designs
Formatted by BB eBooks
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used factiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons or living or dead, events or locals are entirely coincidental.
The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/ Use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owner.
All rights reserved.
To the man who showed me what love really is.
I love you, babe.
judging me. I know what you’re thinking. She has to be a slut; she works at a strip club and takes off her clothes for money. Yes! I work at a strip club, and you may think I’m a whore for showing off my body, but this is a talent that has been forced down my throat since I was a young child. Look pretty and smile. I put on a show for those who choose to watch. However long I’m on stage, I’m not even me. It’s what I imagine an out-of-body experience would be like—a performance, nothing more, nothing less. The people watching make assumptions about who they think I am or cook up a story in their heads of who they want me to be. I’m just another beautiful face.
I hate that fucking word. Who gives a crap if someone is attractive on the outside if they are dying inside? My whole life has been about what I look like. I swear, the only reason my mother kept me was to have a real-life, living, breathing doll she could dress up and control, which is the exact reason why I got as far away from her special brand of crazy as I could as soon as I became eighteen. That’s also why I don’t date. The first thing guys do is look at me and see a pretty face, a nice body, and an empty space where my brain’s supposed to be. They have no interest in getting to know the person I am on the inside. They don’t care that I volunteer my spare time, and they couldn’t care less that I’m going to school to be an RN. They don’t ask about my hopes, my dreams, or about where I see my life in twenty years. They don’t care about me at all.
They just want someone pretty to follow them around and tell them how handsome they are, how special they are, while agreeing with everything they say. Fuck that! I did that for too many years. That’s why I live inside books. At least there I can choose where I want to be—from the highlands of Scotland to a king’s bed in a faraway land—and even if it’s pretend, sometimes that’s a lot better than reality.
Leaving On A Jet Plane
the plane window, my finger going to the glass, feeling the cold on my fingertips as I look down at the land moving quickly below me. It’s funny how, from up here, everything looks so small. I’ve never traveled in a plane before today. The idea of being trapped inside a tin can while flying at six hundred miles per hour never appealed to me. I take a breath and look at the TV monitor that’s in the seat in front of me. The small, animated plane on the screen shows that we’re over halfway to Tennessee.
“Are you traveling for business or pleasure?”
I turn my head and look at the guy sitting next to me. He’s slightly overweight and balding, but he also has wrinkles around his eyes, giving him the appearance of someone who smiles often.
I debate with myself on whether or not to answer before replying, “Business.”
His eyes drop to my mouth then to my chest as I fight the urge to punch him in the throat. I hate when men go from nice to creepy. I shake my head, turning away from him. I don’t know why I even try.
I feel a hand on my bare leg and my head swings around quickly. “Touch me again and I will rip off your balls and feed them to you,” I tell him in a soft tone, trying not to bring attention to us.
He quickly removes his hand, swallowing hard. “I…I’m sorry.”
I shake my head before turning my body away from his. I feel tears stinging my nose, but I fight them back. No way am I going to cry now—not when, just six hours ago, my whole world exploded and I didn’t shed one single tear. I lay my forehead to the glass, closing my eyes. I still can’t believe how fast my life changed…
I got up
yesterday morning and went to the hospital like I always do. I work at one of the busiest ERs in Vegas. I’ve been working there since I finished school and was required to get my clinical hours for my RN. As soon as I walked into the building, I was loaded down with work. Weekends are always crazy in Sin City, but yesterday seemed worse than normal—two drug overdoses, three stomach pumps, and one gunshot victim. Later, I left the hospital exhausted, only to head to my real job—well, the one that pays me the money I need to live.
“Hey, Sid.” I gave him a half smile as I walked into The Lion’s Den, the gentlemen’s club I work at.
Do I like working at a strip club? No. Does it pay my bills? Yes. The second I walk in the door at the club, I’m no longer me. My brain shuts off and my body takes over, the same way it used to when I was growing up and my mom forced me into pageants. I’m accustomed to being on display and used for my appearance. I wish life were different, but it is what it is.
Some people complain about being overweight or having acne; I hate being beautiful. I know it sounds stupid. I mean, why would anyone complain about being attractive, right? Here’s why: Men see me as an object and women see me as competition. No one is ever willing to give me a chance. They all judge me by what’s on the outside, never taking a second to find out even the smallest detail about who I am.
I know I’m a walking cliché. I hate being beautiful, yet I work in a business where I put myself front and center to be viewed and judged.
The difference? For the first time in my life, when I get on stage, it’s my choice; no one is forcing me to do it. I get up there to earn the money so I can change my life in order to never be objectified again.
“Tired?” Sid questioned, following me. I have worked for Sid for the last three years. He is a friend of sorts; he’s also my boss.
“Yeah. I can’t wait until my clinical hours are over and I can start working at the hospital full time instead of having two jobs.”
“I don’t like that I won’t see your face all the time, but I know you need to move on,” he conceded.
“Some other girl will come in and you will forget all about me.”
“Never, Angel.” His eyes moved over my face and he shook his head. “You’re working VIP tonight.” He followed me down the hall towards the dressing rooms.
“Sure,” I agreed, already exhausted. I needed a shower and a bed, but I knew I was going to be there for at least eight hours, so I might as well suck it up.
“The guys coming in are important, so you need to make sure they’re happy the whole time they’re here.”
“I have done this before,” I reminded him, stopping outside the dressing room door to frown at him.
“Normally, I wouldn’t say anything—you know that. But I gotta go get on a plane, so I won’t be here to check on them.”
“I’ll make sure they’re taken care of,” I assured him.
“Thanks, Angel.” He kissed my forehead like he often did before walking away.
I watched him go for a second before pulling myself together.
“Oh! Look who’s here,” Tessa said as soon as I entered the dressing room.
I ignored her and tossed my bag into my locker before pulling my scrubs off. Tessa was a bitch; she was just like the girls I used to compete against in pageants. To her, life was a competition, and she was determined to come out the winner, even if she had to throw everyone else under the bus on her way to the top.
“Mick said I could work VIP tonight,” she said to one of the other girls in the room.
I ignored her again, knowing better than to tell her that it wasn’t happening. I was sure Mick had told her that…after she’d taken him in the backroom and given him something to convince him.
“Pixie said the guys coming in are some big-time land developers, so you know the tips are going to be outrageous. Thank God, because I need to have my tits redone, and that shit is not cheap.”
I rolled my eyes and headed for the shower room. I had met a couple of nice girls during my time here, but most were just like Tessa—a whole lot of hair, tits, ass, and not much else.
I stood in front of the mirror and put on a coat of red lipstick before standing back, looking myself over. The VIP dress code was different than the rest of the club. The required outfit consisted of a sheer, black overlay bra, black silk panties, a black garter belt with sheer hose, and black heels. My long, naturally red hair was pulled back on one side by a large flower; the rest was loose and wavy, flowing down my back and over one shoulder. My creamy, white skin, red lips, and smoky eyes made me look almost like a sexy vamp.
“You ready, Angel?” Sid asked, pounding on the door.
“Showtime,” I whispered before opening the door.
“You look beautiful. I’m going to take you in there and introduce you before heading out.”
“Sure.” I followed him down the hall to the club.
The Lion’s Den is well known in the area for its exclusivity. The walls are painted a dark brown, and the booths are designed into the walls, making the space feel intimate. The stage is in the center of the room, with a single spotlight shining down on it. Every booth has a girl assigned to it, and VIP has two girls. We aren’t allowed to interact with the customers without being asked directly to do so.
The club is less of a strip club and more of a place for men to hang out and drink while having beautiful women tend to them. If they choose to, they can watch the girl in the center of the room put on a show. I have been on stage several times in the three years I’ve worked here. I haven’t told Sid that I don’t like it up there, but he normally put me in VIP or assigned me to a booth for the night.
“Why are you so worried about these guys?” I asked Sid.
“They’re thinking about opening up a Lion’s Den in one of the new casinos they’re building.”
“That’s huge! Congrats, honey.” I squeezed his bicep and gave him a smile.
“One day, Angel, I’m gonna take you away from this place. I wanna see that smile every day.”
My heart did a little thud. Sid is a very attractive man, but he’s not for me. I don’t want or need a man. They get you all discombobulated, filling your head with a bunch of lies and then expecting you to follow them around. I did that once. I thought a man was going to save me from the hell I was living in. I gave him my virginity and my heart, and he gave me a child I wasn’t allowed to keep and a heart so broken that nothing or no one has put it back together again.
I looked through the two-way mirror at the men around the table in the VIP room.
“All right,” Sid said from beside me. “The man in the center at the table is John Barbato. He is the owner of three of the largest clubs in the city. The guy there on his left is Steven Creo. He’s some bigwig on Wall Street and has backed more than half the new clubs and casinos opening on The Strip. The guy to the right of John has a location they’re interested in purchasing.”
“Got it. Who’s working with me?” I asked him.
“Tessa. Mick said she would be the best out of the girls we’ve got on the schedule tonight.”
“I’m sure he did,” I mumbled, looking back into the room. “What other bouncers are on tonight?” I hated when Mick and Craig worked together. They were both more concerned about hooking up with the girls than what was going on out on the floor.