“KE V scream internally as I clock out and race out of the clinic.I’m going to be late!”
“Talia, wait!” Travis calls out as I rush past him in the parking lot.
Travis is a tall man with rippling muscles trying to break through his scrubs, with tan skin and the sexiest tattoos on his arms and chest.
He is the cute radiology tech every girl was pinning over.
But like every sexy man, he’s trouble; a known playboy who had all the girls in the clinic wrapped around his finger and for good reason too.
The man knew how to bend you over a desk and make you his slut.
“Sorry, Travis, but I’m late for picking up Dakota!” I call out breathlessly as I scramble to the bike racks.
“Doesn’t Sarah usually pick him up?” he chuckles as he trots over and watches me put on my helmet.
“Yes, but she’s out of town visiting family for a few days which means I have to pick him up,” I smile impatiently, unlocking the bike.
She was actually on business with some werewolves but I was not about to tell Travis that was running from her ex, a dragon King hellbent on dragging her back to his kingdom.
Being on the run, she and I both changed our names.
She was Sarah Davis while I was Talia Ramos.
“Well how about I give you a ride to the daycare center,” he says, giving me his mischievous grin.
“And then maybe we can talk about you going to dinner with me tomorrow night? Say 7 o’clock?”
I have to physically restrain myself from reaching over and smacking him over the head with my bike lock.
Travis and I had fooled around a few times before but I had always made it clear that this was just a business transaction.
No feelings, just a good f**k.That was the deal.
“Travis,” I sigh, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath.
“We have a good thing.Don’t ruin it, please.I’m not looking for anything else,” I shrug unapologetically.
“I’m not interested ina relationship.”
“Oh come on Talia,” he smirks.
“You know I’m crazy about you…Look I know I have a reputation but I’m not lying.You’re amazing …different from every other girl in this God forsaken town I frown at him.Does he take me for an i***t? He is literally a walking red flag! “
“Travis, stop it.I’m not interested.”
“I could take care of you and Dakota,”
He murmurs, his finger grazing my arms and I shiver in annoyance.
“If you let me.Don’t you want Dakota to have a dad?” anyone to take care of me.
Dakota and I were just fine on our own.
Kota didn’t need a father.He had me…
“I’m sorry, Travis but I really have to go,” I shrug, pushing past him and climbing on the bike.
“will you at least think about it?” He shouts as I pedal away and I fail to respond.
I mutter to myself.
What the f**k did you get yourself into? I push aside my thoughts about Travis and try to figure out what to do with Dakota while I’m working my shift at The Masque.
The only other people I know are Micah and Niki…
.Does Niki work tonight? f**k i can’t remember.
I arrive at the daycare center, the parking lot completely empty by now.
I curse Mrs.Freedman, my last patient, for talking her head off during her visit, and hurry into the building.
Through the large glass window, I peer into the classroom and see my little boy hard at work on a coloring book, his little red backpack already on his shoulders.
My heart skips a beat as I watch him color, his eyes furrowed in concentration and his little brown curls hanging low over his forehead.
Sensing my stare, Kota looks up at me and smiles with excitement, closing his book and jumping out of his seat.
I rush into the classroom and get down on my knees, spreading my arms out wide to receive him.
He collides right into me, nearly “Mommy, what are you doing here?”He giggles excitedly.
“Where’s aunty Gwen?”
I push back his curls from his face and stare into his beautiful big eyes.
They were unlike the eyes of any other, one eye being a gorgeous shade of cerulean and the other being the envy of chocolate with swirls of brown and amber.
Heterchromia wasn’t all that common and my Kota’s eyes were the talk of the town when he was first born.He was the little blue and brown eyed boy everyone loved.
I hear footsteps behind me and smile apologetically at the frowning teacher.
“I’m so sorry, Mrs.Henry.I had a patient today whom I could just not get rid of!” I chuckle nervously.
Mrs.Henry sighs heavily.
“You are very lucky Ms.Ramos….”
She says sternly before her grin gives her away.
“That Mr.Ramos here,” she says, wiggling her eyebrows at Dakota.
“Is a delight to have around and knows how to keep a lady company.” Dakota smiles proudly at me as I lift him into my arms.
“Thank you so much, Mrs.Henry, for looking after him,” I smile.
“Pleasure,” she smiles back as I turn towards the door.
“And Talia?” She calls out.
I turn towards her again.
“Don’t forget that.”
I close my eyes to keep my tears in.It was my biggest fear to fail Kota.He deserved the world and I sometimes felt I could not give him enough.
“Thank you,” I whisper, pushing the door open with my foot.
I carry Dakota down to the bike racks, forcing back my tears and putting on a smile for my little boy.
He didn’t need to see his mommy cry.
“Mommy, where is aunty Gwen?” Kota asks as I set him down on the child carrier.
“She, my love, is on a trip,” I reply, strapping on his helmet.
“Which means it’s just you and me for a couple of days.”
He gives me a cheeky grin.
“Can we have chicken nuggets for dinner?” I smile at him as I pull out my phone and dial Niki’s number.
“Maybe,” I grin.
“Hello?” Niki’s voice comes through.
“Hey, Niki, it’s Talia,” I sigh, praying to whatever Gods exist that she wasn’t working tonight.
“Do you think you could watch Kota tonight? Sarah is out of town and I need a babysitter.”
“I’m not a baby!” Dakota huffs in his seat.
“Right, I need a little man sitter,” I laugh.
“Do you think you could love that boy to bits!”
Oh thank the Gods! We make arrangements and I hop on the bike, Kota stretching out his arms to feel the wind rushing past us.
After a quick pedal to the outskirts of Poulsbo, I finally make it to the house.
I pack Kota’s things in his backpack and change out of my scrubs and into an all black outfit.I would change into my uniform once I got to the club.
There was no way in hell I was riding my bike around in a skirt.
Kota comes rushing into the living, his helmet on backwards.
“Mommy, look! I did it all by myself,” he smiles proudly.
I can’t help but laugh as I unbuckle his helmet and put it on the right way.
“There we go,” I chirp, helping him back into his seat.
“You’re going to Niki and Micah’s tonight, okay? So I need you to behave.Can you do that?”
He gives me a quick nod and I hand him an apple juice.
I pedal down to the town center where Niki and Micah live.
They are two coworkers from the nightclub.
Niki was a waitress like me and Micah a bartender.I pull up to their apartment and help Kota out of his seat.
He skips ahead and knocks on the door while I tie up the bike.How’s my cute little man?
She smiles as she showers his chubby cheeks with kisses.She waves me inside and closes the door behind me.
An incredible smell fills the entire house and I look over into the small kitchen to see a tiny woman hard at work over the stove.She is no more than 5 feet tall, with long dirty blonde hair and dark kind eyes.
The woman notices me admiring her beauty, blushing furiously and waving politely at me.
Realizing I’m being rude, I wave back and introduce myself.
“Hi, I’m Talia, Niki and Micah’s friend.” The woman smiles and nods but says nothing.
“Oh my bad, babe,” Niki laughs.
“This is our friend Agnes. She’s deaf and mute so…”
“She’s dead?!” Kota asks curiously, looking back at Agnes.
“She doesn’t look like a ghost to me.”
Niki and I can’t help but burst out laughing at his innocence.
“No baby, she’s DEAF and mute.It means she can’t hear you or speak,” I explain to him, ruffling up his hair.
I walk over to the woman and point to myself.
She watches as I hook my two thumbs together and pull them apart, using my fingers to sign my name.I slide my palms across each other, then bring my two pointer fingers together and finally point at her.
Her eyes brighten up as I finish and I hear Niki cry out excitedly.
“You know how to sign? Since when? What did you say?”
I just said ‘’I am Talia.Nice to meet you,”
“I work with a couple deaf patients and learned some basic signs to make them feel more comfortable.”
“You have to teach me,” Niki says.
“She and her son are staying with us until they can get their own place and they are both mute.We’ve just been writing to each other to get by.”
“Oh, where’s the son?” I ask, looking around for another visitor.
“You just missed him,” Niki blushes.
“He’s with Micah at the club and girl, let me tell you, HE’S HOT! LIKE HOT, HOT! Oh Talia, you should see him with Agnes.It’s the most adorable thing ever.He’s so sweet and did I mention that he’s HOT?”
She giggles like a schoolgirl.
“I call dibs! I mean it, Tal.Don’t be using your Latina charm on him!” She scolds.
I roll my eyes and shake my head at her.
“I wouldn’t dream of it, ” I sigh, grabbing my keys and helmet.
“Thank you for watching Kota for me.You’re a lifesaver.”
“Any time!” She calls out after me as I leave.
I bike over to the club in the middle of town, storing the bike in the racks directly behind the building.
THE MASQUE is a prestigious club where some of the town’s more prominent members liked to gather.
The Dress Code.
Everyone who entered the building had to wear a mask to hide their identity.It could be any mask.
Some wore flamboyant your local Halloween stores.
No mask, no entrance.
The purpose was simple.
Clients could come and go as they pleased without fear of being judged by the public and the staff, specifically the dancers, could work without being labeled as sluts or prostitutes.
It was a win-win for everyone and it worked brilliantly.
I personally loved trying to guess who was who under all the masks.
Judging by the tips and drinks that were ordered, I knew some of the city council members were regulars and I could only assume police officers, doctors, teachers, and others frequented the place.
Before entering the building, I put on a plain black masquerade mask and grab my uniform, going straight to the changing room and exchanging my black top and jeans for a skimpy work uniform.
We had themes every week for practically every fetish, ranging from full body leather suits to sexy schoolgirl uniforms.
My maid uniform consisted of a black bralette, a lacy black and white choker, a piece of black fabric I barely considered a skirt, and a small white apron.
A garter belt, stockings, and heels completed the look and I touch up my makeup in the mirror.
It was moments like these that I really loved the mask rule.
Annoyed with my outfit and mentally preparing myself to fight off drunkards all night, I walk out to the club hall, the music nearly blowing out my ear drums.
The Masque was a two tier nightclub with the upper level containing private tables for high ranking clients and stage for main dancers, side stages for other exotic dancers, tables for more clients, and the large dance floor.
I pass by Ron, the club owner’s office and see him talking to both Micah and a man I’d never seen before.
His back is to me so I can’t make out his face, but just from where he sat, I could tell he was tall and built like a god, his muscles barely confined by his black t-shirt.
He must be Agnes’ son…
I think to myself as I walk over to the bar.
The bouncers and security were already helping set up the bar, bringing in ice buckets and restocking the drinks and chasers.
The dancers are already on stage warming up and preparing for their routines.
Jade, one of the waitresses, squeals excitedly as she runs over to me.
“OMG! OMG! OMG! Have you seen the guy Micah brought in yet?” She asks, bouncing on her toes.
“No,” I grin at her contagious smile.
“But I hear he’s a real work of art.”
“He’s a GOD, Talia. A GOD!”
“Watch it,” I smirk.
“Niki called dibs.”
“But he didn’t,” she smirks, adjusting her bralette and shaking her breasts.
“Oh just wait till you see him,” she teases.
“You’ll be changing your damn panties. That man is FINE!”
The lights dim and the security guards scramble to open the doors.
Two bouncers start letting people in and I finally see Micah come out of Ron’s office towards his station.
His friend, however, remains in the office, signing paperwork.
Jade and I rush over to Micah, slamming our trays on the bar.
“Okay Micah, spill,” Jade demands.
“Who is that fine hunk of man you brought?” Micah smirks triumphantly.
“That my dear ladies, is Zane.He’s the new security guard replacing Ryker.”
“Zane,” Jade purrs, biting her lower lip.
“Oh, I could definitely moan that all night.”
“You disgust me,”
Micah retorts, Jade grinning from ear to ear.
“Introduce me,” Jade pouts, batting her eyelashes at him.
“No can do,” Micah sighs.
“He’s mute.So he can’t even introduce himself.”
“OMG, a man who can’t talk back or lie to me!” Jade squeals again.
“Dear Lord, he’s perfect!”
Micah rolls his eyes and shoos us to go get orders from the drinks and fighting touchy clients from grabbing at my bare ass cheeks under my skirt.
One particular client, whom I’ll refer to as Bond Asswipe due to his attire, requests my services on the table.
“Sorry, sir.I’m not a dancer,” I reply politely.
There was nothing with being a stripper in my books.I just simply wasn’t one of them.
“I can refill your drink if you like. Do you have a poison of choice..?”
He wraps his hand around my wrist and pulls me to him so that! almost land on his lap.
“Get on the table, b***h. I want to see what that cute little ass of yours can do.”
Having worked at this nightclub for well over two years, I was used to being asked to dance.
“I’m a waitress, sir,” I smile through my anger.
“But I’d be more than happy to call you a dancer…”
“I said dance,” he roars, pushing me against the table.
Suddenly, I hear a low growl rumble over the music, sending shivers down my spine.
Bond Asswipe lets go of my wrist and stares at something behind me, sobering up instantly and gulping loudly.
I tremble in fear.
In my lifetime, I had only ever heard one type of person make a sound as menacing as that, and they worshiped the moon and took the shape of a wolf.
“I-I’m sorry Miss,” Bond Asswipe stutters, throwing me some cash.
“I mistook you for a whore.”
The mysterious person behind me pushes past me and I realize it’s Zane, Micah’s friend.
He grabs Bond Asswipe by the collar, dragging him towards the exit and literally kicking his ass out.
Several people gawk and stare at Zane as he dusts his hands off while I fight back tears….
Because as his hands had pushed past me to grab Bond Asswipe, our skin briefly touched and I felt those unforgettable sparks I dreaded so much.
I feel Zane’s eyes on me, and I look up to meet his, the entire nightclub fading away into oblivion.
“Mate,” he mouths silently, his lips curving into a surprised smile.
“No,” I whimper, backing away slowly as my heart pounds in my chest.