Stripped - By Brenda Rothert

Chapter 1

As she wound a leg around the top of the metal pole, Abby closed her eyes briefly. Her favorite part of the song was approaching, and it never failed to move her.

She pressed her hands to the cool surface of the stage, balancing herself before parting her legs into the splits. A chorus of gasps was quickly drowned out by the deep hoots and hollers of onlookers.

The lyrics of ‘Angel of Harlem’ led Abby as she approached the row of men eyeing her eagerly, clutching dollars readily. She was an angel in devil’s shoes, she reminded herself as she bent toward a man who licked his lips in nervous excitement. Tonight this song was her anthem.

As bills were tucked into the snug string of her panties, Abby smiled seductively. The only reason she worked at Mickey’s was for the money, and she always did what it took to bring in the most.

The stubby fingers of a large, red-faced man trailed down her thigh after he tucked his money in. She moved away from him smoothly.

“Hey, baby,” breathed a man with a receding hairline as he pushed a bill in with a lusty expression. Abby bit her lip and gave him a tantalizing smile. She swung her long hair up with a swish as she stood, giving one last glance over her shoulder.

As she left the stage, Abby pretended the cheers she heard were for her dancing. She smiled to herself. Maybe just a little bit for the dancing?

“Hey, I got us a table,” Abby’s friend Sam said. “Bachelor party.”

“Sweet,” Abby said, plucking the dollars out of her panties and pushing them into her locked backstage container.

“Loser buys the winner lunch,” Sam said, raising her eyebrows in challenge. Abby smiled. Sam was competitive, and men gravitated toward her. But Abby liked their friendly competitions. They kept her mind off some of the more unpleasant aspects of working at Mickey’s.

“Ready?” Sam asked, smacking Abby’s behind lightly. Abby replaced the bra she’d discarded during her dance and joined her friend.

“Hey, how’s Sara?” Sam asked in a low voice as they made their way across the club.

“Better. She hasn’t thrown up since lunchtime,” Abby murmured.

“Hi, boys,” Sam purred as she arrived at a large table of around a dozen men. “I’m Lacey, and this is my friend Nikki.”

Abby waved flirtatiously at the mention of her stage name. She was protective of her real name, sharing it with very few people who worked at the club.

“Fuck, yeah,” one of the men said, eyeing the women salaciously. A pop song blared as one of the other dancers swung her way through her pole dance on stage.

“Where’s the groom?” Abby asked coyly.

“Reed!” several of the men yelled out in unison, laughing and slapping the table as they pointed to a dark-haired man at the end. They were already drunk. Abby knew that meant she could expect obscene behavior and tips.

“We can touch you, but you can’t touch us,” she reminded the men lightly.

The two women stood on either side of the groom as they began their lap dance. He didn’t look much older than she was, Abby thought. As she swayed her hips toward him, he had the grace to look guilty. He ran a hand through his dark, curly hair as his eyes roamed between Abby and Sam.

“Oh, shit,” he said softly as Sam pressed her breasts into his face. His friends cheered raucously.

He was cute, Abby thought. He had delicious dark stubble and warm hazel eyes. His friends mostly looked his age, too. These were the groups Abby disliked dancing for the most. Older men with beer bellies and wedding rings were easy, because it was all a money-making game. But men like these reminded Abby what she was missing. She was 24, and in a different life, she could have been with a man like Reed.

He smiled shyly at her as she ran her hands up his thighs. Abby wondered whether he was a good kisser. She pictured him in a tuxedo, with a look of complete adoration for his bride.

Just stop, she reminded herself. This is your life. Focus, and make money.

The groom tipped both women well at the end of the song, and Sam kissed him on the cheek.

The man next to him met Abby’s eyes as he slipped her a folded twenty. He had dark skin and a disarming grin.

“God, you’re gorgeous,” he said softly as she worked herself against him. She smiled and arched her back, tossing her long, sandy