Dirty Desires - Crystal Kaswell

Chapter One


"Is it really true?" A man with grey hair leans across the bar. Lowers his voice to a stage whisper. "Are you really a virgin?"

I press my lips together. No need to smile. As the owner put it, I'm not here for my charming personality. I'm here because the club is light on girls with a "punk bitch" aesthetic. "What was that? Appletini?" I pretend as if I can't hear the man. "Or was it chocolate martini?"

He looks me up and down. "You."

Is there a drink that sounds like you? Something bright pink. With a raunchy name. The kind of drink college girls order on spring break. I don't have a problem with grown men ordering a blow job but this guy—

No, that's only going to give him ideas.

Forget it. "Is the well vodka okay?"

He reaches for my hand. Wraps his greedy fingers around my wrist. "Eve, isn't it?"

"The apple martini—"

"Sure. Give me the best you've got."

I guess that answers that question. Is inappropriate question guy embarrassed by a bright green drink? No. He wants the best. The very best vodka. The very best apple liqueur. The very best… shit, what else is in this drink?

The owner didn't hire me for my expertise. He hired me because a) I begged, b) a friend from high school vouched for me, and c) I could start work on my eighteenth birthday.

I guess there's also d) a lack of girls with teal hair and tattoos. I am the only "punk bitch" who works at Devil's Point.

It's a dive and the customers are assholes, but the tips are good. Besides, there's something satisfying about mixing drinks, learning formulas, perfecting recipes.

After six months, I know cocktails pretty well. But this is the first Appletini.

I improvise. Vodka, apple liqueur, lemon.

I shake the drink with ice, strain it into a martini glass, slide it across the bar.

To his credit, Drunk McHandsy offers his credit card without provocation.

I file the card. There's no space for Drunk McHandsy, but it's Tuesday evening. Quiet. Except for the bachelor party by the stage, the club is empty. I need to make this guy feel important if I want to go home with enough tip money to cover rent. "What did you say you do?"

"A doctor. I know the female anatomy well." He winks. Takes a long sip of his apple martini. "Shit, this is good." He turns to the stage for a moment. Watches a lean blond dancer undo the buttons of her blouse one at a time.

Yes, this isn't just a dive bar. It's a strip club. That's the other reason why the owner hired me. He was sure I'd "get dollar signs in my eyes as soon as I saw what the dancers were pulling in."

I understand his point.

Between rent, tuition, and Addie's medical expenses, I need money.

On a good night, I go home with a few hundred dollars.

On a good night, the woman working the stage—she goes by Britney—goes home with a few thousand.

Only she has to touch all these strange men. She has to let them touch her.

I see the way men reach for dancers. They think twenty dollars buys them carte blanche.

"Is that why you don't dance?" Drunk McHandsy turns to me with wide eyes. "Because you've never been with a man?"

"I like making drinks." I strain the extra liquor into a martini glass.

"Are you saving yourself for a good man?"

"Why? Do you know one?"

His laugh echoes around the room. "So it is true?"

"That I need a good man?" Let's face it, I need a man like I need another bill to pay. Eighteen years full of disappointing men. My father, my bosses, even the senior year English teacher who refused to let me pick Margaret Atwood for my final project.

"That you're a virgin?"

There's no way I'm getting out of this question with a good tip. Either I lie and say no. Claim an interest in women (if only). Or I tell him the truth.

Well, some of it.

"I am." I finish the green drink. Let it warm my cheeks and throat. Let it sweeten the music and soften the air.



"You just…" He glances at Britney as the song shifts to Hit Me Baby, One More Time. Dancers work a three-song set. Clothed, topless, nude. This is number three. Of course, she interprets nude in her way. The panties come off. The schoolgirl skirt stays on.

The frat bros celebrating a friend's wedding go wild.

It's an apt choice. Britney. Apparently, her virginity was the gossip of the day.