“This is for you.” Henry hands me a piece of paper on his way to the bathroom.
“Hello to you too.” I glance at the pink sheet, wondering what field trip this one is for and whether I want to chaperone it.
“You have to sign it,” he says over his shoulder before shutting the door behind him.
As soon as I read the first line, my stomach drops.
Your child has been exposed to lice.
“As soon as you’re done, we’re going to get a haircut and shampoo.” I grab a pen off the counter and sign the stupid notice before I shove it into Henry’s backpack.
I just got my hair cut last weekend, but I’ll get a tea tree shampoo. There’s a shop in town that specializes in lice abatement and they’ve managed to keep us bug-free for the first few breakouts since Henry started living with me and the colony at the beginning of the school year. I hate to see his wavy locks get shaved off, but it’s better than the alternative.
And he’s definitely due for a trim anyway.
While he takes care of business, I go through his returned papers to see how he’s doing. His lowest score is a seven, and his highest score is a nine. Out of a ten-point scoring system, I can live with these kinds of numbers.
When I first took Henry in while my sister deals with her addiction issues, he was barely reading at all and couldn’t count past fifty. For an eight-year-old, it was pretty sad. But Emily and I have both spent a lot of time getting him caught up to grade-level school work, and it’s starting to pay off.
I only have three more days at Biters before I’m officially off the payroll there and on the payroll at Fate Advisors. To say I’m only a little nervous would be a lie.
I’m fucking terrified.
Not because I don’t think I’ll be good at it. I’m damn good at sex. As an omega, it’s all I’m genetically evolved to be good at. Since I was raised in a colony of breeding omegas, it doesn’t really bother me to have sex with strangers. I consider it to be nothing more than a physical release with zero emotional attachment. For thousands of years, the sole purpose of an omega’s existence has been to procreate. My people come from a long line of breeders, both male and female, and sex is our industry.
Unfortunately, as one of the few omegas born with an abnormality that doesn’t allow for the development of a fetus, I’m not able to fulfill my purpose to my colony by birthing babies. So, I provide in other ways.
Our colony has owned hundreds of acres of land in the Santa Cruz mountains in Northern California for five generations. But despite owning the property outright, the taxes and general cost of living have made it difficult for young omegas to stay within the colony after mating.
Since I’ll never mate, it was a no-brainer to work in the one industry that can bring in six figures to my people and keep the elders fed and cared for. Being a stripper and taking private clients for extra services at Biters has been a stepping stone for me. But in just a few days, I’ll be hanging up my jock and working as a daytime prostitute for Silicon Valley businessmen.
It’s not exactly the profession my mother would have hoped I’d end up in, but she drank herself to death when I was young, so I don’t have anyone to judge me. At least not anyone sober enough to try. My sister Tanya and I had the same chances in life, but she made very different choices. She chose to leave her family for some asshole alpha who knocked her up then knocked her around until she was so desperate for escape that the needles and pills she saw other desperate omegas using were too hard to resist.
So now Henry is with me for the foreseeable future, and I plan to give him every opportunity to become a strong and successful man. In my heart, I hope he isn’t an omega, but I’m also worried about him being a shifter. His father was a strong alpha wolf. Not the good kind who protects and serves his pack, but the kind who abuses the weak and takes advantage of the vulnerable. The kind I don’t want my nephew to ever take after.
When that man was killed, I was grateful. As much as I know it hurts Henry to not have his father anymore, he’s much better off without that man in his life.
Even if his only parental-figure now is a whore.
But I’m not ashamed of who I am. I’m taking care of my people, and that’s the most important thing I can do for the Bayside Omega Colony.
Although, if I’m being completely honest with myself, the lack of concern I have over becoming a full-fledged prostitute instead of just an exotic dancer is alarming in itself.
I should be more worried. I should be disgusted…horrified even. But I’m not.
As a stripper at Biters, I offered extra services to customers on a regular basis. It paid well and wasn’t a big deal. So, if taking the leap to an actual rent boy will provide a more stable life for me and Henry, then that’s what I’m going to do.
Regardless of what other people might think of me.
Of course, I won’t be called a prostitute once I start working at Fate Advisors. Officially, I’ll be a relationship consultant. That’s the service I’ll offer my clients on the books, and that’s the service they’ll pay for. But at the end of their counseling session, if we mutually decide to have an intimate interaction off the books, that’s completely up to us as consenting adults.
So why don’t I have any remorse over what I’m about to do?
How is it okay for me to have sex with married men while their spouses are probably at home taking care of their children? Am I a sociopath? Do I care so little about the family unit that I don’t mind being a vehicle for destroying one?
I’d like to think that’s not true, but maybe it is.
I didn’t witness many healthy relationships growing up, so maybe I just don’t know any better. Mom raised us by herself, and you can see how well that turned out just by looking at Henry. My sister Tanya has been using her body to escape her fucked up life for years.
So what does that mean for me?
Am I destined to bounce from bed to bed with no chance of finding a real connection…and not much interest in caring?
* * *
Emily is sitting on my couch when Henry and I get home. “Please tell me you brought home food because I’m starving.”
I hold up a bag of chicken chow mein and egg rolls. “You know I wouldn’t expect you to babysit on an empty stomach.”
“And that’s why I love you.” She hops off the couch and grabs the bag, taking it to the kitchen table. “That’s the only thing I miss about working at the restaurant. I can’t just grab food all day long while I’m working. Although, half the time, I was too busy to stop and eat, so I guess I’m not missing much.”
“What?” I put three plates on the table and start opening up containers. “Syrus isn’t feeding you in that big house of his?”
Emily groans. “He’s healthy. It’s super annoying. He’s been making these green smoothies that look like…well, really bad. I’m drinking them to be nice, but I’m hungry all the time.”
I raise an eyebrow then glance down at her belly. “Are you sure that’s the only reason you’re always hungry? Maybe you’re eating for two…”
Emily gasps and looks appalled at the suggestion. “How dare you! I just moved in with Syrus. I need at least a year or two of just being with my sexy alpha before I even think about babies.”
I smile to myself. Yeah, right.
“You’re having a baby?” Henry sits at the table with a Captain Underpants book in his hand. He’s been reading it for a few weeks now. I know it’s a struggle, but he smiles a lot when he’s reading, so I’ve been encouraging him to keep it with him all the time.
Except the dinner table.
“Henry, buddy, put the book down.” I pat the table beside his plate before I fill it with noodles. “And no, Aunt Emily isn’t having a baby…yet.”
I wink at Emily, and she scratches her cheek with her middle finger. Yeah, we’ll see how long she lasts before she’s knocked up by her billionaire alpha. Syrus is an attorney to the California Council of Shifters. He protects the interests of all the local packs and makes sure any negative encounters with humans or other species are erased or settled before any hostility erupts.
“So, what’s new with you, kiddo?” Emily places a glass of milk next to Henry then sits down too. “It’s been a few days since I saw you last.”
He shrugs. “Nothing.”
“Did you have art today?” Emily takes a bite, waiting for him to chew the mound of food he’s already shoveled into his mouth. She moved away from the colony a month ago to live in a mansion with her alpha, so she doesn’t get to see Henry every day like she used to.
“Yeah.” He knows better than to talk with his mouthful, so he blurts out very quick answers between very big bites.
“What kind of art? Did you bring it home?”
Henry shakes his head and chews faster. “Clay. Not yet.”
And this is how the rest of the meal goes, with me and Emily trying to pry information out of Henry while he’s focused on getting as many calories into his belly as possible. No matter how many times I tell him to slow down because there is plenty of food for him, he can’t quite let go of the fear of being hungry that was instilled into him after so many years of neglect by my sister.
I only wish I had known how bad it was sooner.
* * *
“Let’s pray for our sins to the Angel of Mercy!”
When I hear my stage name called, I adjust the wings on my back and eliminate any emotions on my face before I head out front. The slow beats measure each step I take, and by the time I’m standing in the center of the black stage, I’m ready to start my routine.
Come on, Angel. It’s time to shake your ass…
I work the pole into my dance in the middle and towards the end for my finale, but most of my piece is floor work. Like, literally on the floor with my legs spread while my fingers trail up and down my body as I display myself to the strangers in the audience.
Once my jock is gone, I’m left only wearing white high-tops and my angel wings. I got over the embarrassment of being nude in front of strangers a long time ago. Now it’s actually empowering. I have some small amount of control over these men when they’re focused on my body. If I want something from them, I can get it just by giving them a closer peek.
Besides, with the bright lights and the loud music, I don’t ever focus on any one face in the crowd. I just let myself move to the rhythm that’s pounding up from my feet and through my entire body. Every muscle is being scrutinized and judged, but that’s okay. I’ll take their judgment just as quickly as I take their cash. Bills are slipped beneath the straps of my wings as I saunter across the floor for a last lap.
When the song comes to an end, I do a final sweep of the stage, collecting the bills that have been thrown at me or fallen out of my wings. On the far left of the stage, just as I’m about to exit, I see a small stack of hundred-dollar bills, fanned out into a point toward Garrett Madison.
I haven’t seen Garrett here in a while, but I’m pretty sure this is his way of asking for a private session. He usually asks for Tommie, but he’s not here tonight. I wink and shoot him a smile while collecting the stack and disappearing from the stage.
After getting dressed and slipping a sheer T-shirt over my bare chest and jock, I go out to the front of the house, looking for Garrett. He’s sitting exactly where I left him, and his eyes instantly lock on me as soon as I emerge from the back. He’s got a bottle of champagne chilling at his table, but I stop at the bar for a bottle of ice water before I head to Garrett’s table. I’ll have a glass of champagne if he offers one, but I desperately need some water first.
“My angel,” the sexy wolf shifter says, standing up to give me a kiss on the cheek before gesturing to the chair beside him. “Join me.”
“It’s nice to see you, Garrett.” I slide onto the open chair. “How are you?”
“Excellent. And I’m happy you’re here tonight.”
“What a coincidence…” I give him a coy smile. “Because I’m happy you’re here too.”
He takes a sip of his drink. “Mark mentioned you’re going to be leaving him soon and moving over to his newest venture.”
“I am. The hours are better, you know.” I finish the bottle of water and put it on the corner of the table to be picked up by a server.
“What about weekends?”
I cock my head, not sure what he means. “What about weekends?”
“Will you be working on the weekends?” He sets his glass down and leans forward so his face is just inches from mine. He’s an attractive man, a little older than me, and for a man pushing forty, he’s got a great body. All wolves age well, so it’s not surprising that he looks twenty-five.
“No, and that’s the beauty of it. I need evenings and weekends free.” I don’t bother explaining that I have a little boy at home to think about. I don’t want anyone from the club to know anything about my personal life. Mark was adamant that we never share personal details with clients, just in case. And I’ve taken that advice to heart. “That’s why I’m taking a new job.”
Garrett leans back in the chair with his arms crossed as if he’s contemplating a response that shouldn’t require much contemplation. “I came here with a proposal for you, Angel.”
“And what’s that?” If it requires weekend work, I’m probably not interested.
“I’m hosting a party on my yacht this Saturday, and I’d like for you to be part of the entertainment. I’ll pay $10,000 from Saturday noon until Sunday noon.”
My jaw drops as I process the offer he’s making. Ten thousand dollars for one weekend. That would be life-changing for me. If I had that kind of money, it would make a huge difference to the omegas in my colony who are really struggling to make ends meet. “What do I have to do?”
“Just dance, Angel.” He reaches across the table and slides his hand down my arm. “All you have to do is dance for me and my friends.”