She wore a tiny pair of boy shorts and a glittery corset that pushed her chest up to her neck. Her skin was creamy and pale and she was curvy in all the right places.
“The first time is always the worst. After a while, it’ll be like brushing your teeth. You won’t even think about it.”
I couldn’t imagine getting naked in front of a bunch of drunk and slurring idiots would ever get any easier, but I didn’t bother to disagree with her.
“Do you wear contacts?” I asked, totally distracted by those purple eyes.
“Yeah.” She smiled. “I’m Roxie,” she said, holding out her hand.
I shook it. “Harlow.”
“You gonna use your real name on stage?”
I hadn’t thought about it. I guessed I probably shouldn’t. “I don’t think so.”
“Got a stage name in mind?”
“No. And I don’t have a song either.”
“Adam never tells any of the new girls they need a song. He’s such a man, I swear. He probably doesn’t even know music plays around here. All he cares about is making money.”
I couldn’t really fault him for that. I mean, hello, it’s the reason I was here.
“That what you’re wearing?” she asked, taking in my skimpy cutoff shorts and white “wife-beater” tank top.
“Lose the bra.”
A protest formed on my tongue. If I lost the bra, then when I took off my shirt, I would be completely bare… I was kind of hoping to delay the inevitable.
“Oh, and Adam probably didn’t tell you that we aren’t a full nude strip club.”
“What does that mean?” I said as she pushed me down onto my stool, picked up a brush and pulled down my ponytail.
“It means we don’t take off our bottoms. You can strip all the way down to your panties or thong—whatever you have on—but that’s it.”
Well, that was the best news I’d heard all day. “And our tops?”
“Yeah, those can come off.”
“How long is a shift?” I asked as she teased the hair at my crown.
“Usually the girls stop dancing at two a.m. and then we take turns on who stays to close down the bar.”
So that meant I had to do six or seven dances a night. That was a lot of freaking naked time.
She patted my shoulder. “You can do the same routine a couple times so not every time you dance is brand new, just don’t do the same one back to back.”
“I only brought what I’m wearing.”
“Did Adam tell you nothing?”
I shook my head. “Just that I was auditioning.”
She shook her head. “I’ll talk to him.”
“What about that stuff back there?” I motioned to the racks of clothes.
“I wouldn’t put that community wear on my body. Who knows where some of these dirty bitches have been?”
My mouth fell open and then we both started laughing.
“It’s true,” she said with a smile. “Like you haven’t been thinking it since you walked in the door.”
A little bit of the tension coiling inside me eased. “So how long have you been doing this?”
She shrugged. “A couple years.”
She lifted one shoulder as she smoothed out my hair. “What can I say? The money’s great.”
I didn’t say anything because I honestly wasn’t sure if the money was going to be worth all of this.
“What do you think?” she asked, and I looked in the mirror.
“Wow,” I whispered, leaning in. My hair was bumped up in the back and parted to the side so it fell over one eye. It tumbled around my shoulders loosely and flirted with my collarbone.
“You still need something,” she mused, then walked across the room to her table and rummaged around in a hot-pink bag. When she found what she wanted, she snapped back up and shimmied over to me.
With a grin, she reached out and clipped something in my hair, adjusting some of the strands around it. Then she stepped back and admired her handiwork in the mirror.
It was a hair extension—a thick strip of purple that popped out against my dark hair and actually played up the blue in my eyes.
I liked it. It was sexy.
“There, that’s perfect.”
“Don’t you need this?” I asked, fingering the ends of my hair.
“Nah, it clashes with my eyes so I don’t wear it. Keep it.”
“Really? Thank you.”
Roxie looked up at the clock and then back at me. “Showtime.”
And just like that, my nerves intensified by like three thousand. “I can’t do this.”
“Yes. You can.”
“No. I don’t think I can.”
“You have a boyfriend?”
I felt my brow wrinkle at the change of topic. “No.”
“Probably better that way,” she murmured almost to herself. “Well, just imagine there is this really hot guy sitting out there. Imagine you’re dying for him to ask you out, but he seems to never notice you. Make him notice you.”
She laughed. “Whatever you do, don’t look like that out there.”
She yanked me toward the couple stairs that led up to the curtain behind the stage. One of the girls was just finishing up and the men were all whistling.
“The song,” I said, turning around to flee the stage.
“I’ll tell Remy what to play. You just concentrate on moving.”
I nodded numbly. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this.
“Oh, name! What’s your name?” Roxie said before rushing away.
“Violet,” I said, reaching up and touching the purple stripe of color in my hair.
She gave me a thumbs-up and then rushed away, leaving me alone behind the curtain.
The other girl moved off the stage and behind the curtain. Her hands were filled with cash. “You’re up,” she said, looking down and smirking.
It was the kind of smirk that lit a fire in my blood, like she was certain I was going to bomb big time.
I’d show her.
The music cut out. The stage went dark. My heart began to pound.
When the DJ introduced the new girl Violet, I didn’t realize he was talking about me until music started playing.
It was Def Leopard.
I stood there, rooted on the stage, gripping the curtain like I was frozen.
Roxie appeared and gave me a little shove.
And just like that, I was center stage, and every man in the room watched for me to get naked.