More than Exist(7)

By: Bethany Lopez

I totally lost it.

His muscular arms wrapped around me, as if he were a friend rather than a stranger, and he murmured gently in my ear as I soaked his button down with my tears.

When the wave of tears receded, I realized where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing. I pulled back, mortified.

“I’m so sorry,” I said in a rush, wiping my cheeks with the back of my hand and grimacing when streaks of black came off. “This was my first time doing this, and I kind of freaked.”

“That’s okay,” the kind stranger replied, his hand stroking my hair. “It’s my first time too. I get it.”

“I feel terrible. You paid for a lap dance, not for some psycho woman to cry all over you.” I let out a nervous chuckle, hoping to ease the tension a little.

He smiled at me, his eyes crinkling at the sides, then shocked me by bringing his thumb to my face and rubbing the smudges out from under my eyes.

“This is the most fun I’ve had in months,” he replied, causing me to laugh. “Look, I didn’t even want to come here, but my buddies and I are up to celebrate Jones’s birthday, and they dragged me to this club. It’s really not my thing. So when the big guy said he had a new girl that was available to dance privately, I decided to go for it. I figured it would get the guys off my back for a while.”

“You promise you won’t say anything to Big Mike?” I asked, worried that I’d ruined the deal and wouldn’t get my belongings back so I could get the heck out of Vegas.

“Scout’s honor,” he said, crossing his heart. “My name’s Luke, what’s yours?”

“Belle,” I replied, then came to the realization that I was in his lap, practically naked, and his hand was caressing my back softly. It felt great, but it was time for me to put a stop to it, so I stood up, grabbed the dress, and pulled it over my head as quickly as possible.

“I can’t thank you enough, Luke,” I said sincerely, then bent to kiss him on the cheek before scurrying out of the room and back to Ginger.

Chapter 4

“Want to get a drink?” Ginger asked once I had my clothes back on, and was laying the sundress across a chair.

I turned to see her holding out my purse. I took it and shot her a sheepish grin as I opened it and checked the contents. Once I was certain everything was accounted for, I replied, “Yeah, I’d love that.”

More so, I was starting to feel that clawing need in the back of my throat, indicating that I really needed a drink. The two fingers of whiskey were not cutting the mustard.

Ginger beamed at my response and held up a finger. “Just give me one minute to get dressed, and we’ll head out.”

“Sounds good.”

Literally a minute later, Ginger rounded the corner looking like a sexy co-ed, with her red hair pulled back in a ponytail, and wearing jeans and a plain green T-shirt.

“Ready,” she said with a smile, and led the way out of the dressing room, and toward the front door.

When we passed Big Mike, he said, “Nice working with you, Belle.”

To which I replied, “I hope I never see you again, Big Mike,” without a backwards glance.

When we hit the street Ginger turned to me and asked, “Where are you stayin’?”

“The Stratosphere.”

“Coolio, there’s a bar there. Airbar. One of my friends bartends there, so we’ll have no problem getting in, and you’ll only be a short stumble away from your room.”


Ginger looped her arm through mine and proceeded to tell me her life story as we walked.

“I’m from Dallas, born and raised. My momma worked two jobs to keep a full pantry for me and my sister. When I was twenty, I took a trip here with my boyfriend, and ended up staying. Bo left me a couple weeks later, and I haven’t seen him since. I met Big Mike when I was looking for a job, and a place to stay, and he took me in. I’ve been working for him ever since. I started out as a waitress, then a dancer, and now I mostly help hire and train the girls. I haven’t worked a pole in two years.”

I let everything she was saying sink in, processing the drastic differences in our lives, before asking,” Do you ever go back home to see your family?”

“Yeah, at least one a year, for Momma’s birthday. I’m actually taking a bus there this weekend. Her birthday is on Sunday.”

“And you’ve never wanted to move back? You’re happy here?” I asked softly, hoping I didn’t offend her.

“My momma asks me every time I go home if I’ll stay, but it just doesn’t feel like home anymore, ya know? I don’t know if I’m happy, but I feel useful. I know that Big Mike and the girls need me, and that’s a good feeling.”

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