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Bad Boy Next Door by Leigh, Mara (1)

One

Nick

An hour before closing, the club was half full, mostly loners with boners.

Stationed inside the front door, I crossed my arms over my chest and my hands barely reached my elbows. Intimidation was at the top of the job description for a strip club bouncer, and my bulked-up bod—a disadvantage for some things—made me an ace at this job. A master.

It’d been a typical night at Solid Gold. I’d wrangled six or seven rowdy bachelor parties, the douches’ entitlement raging after paying our sky-high party surcharges. And along with the partiers, there’d been the typical groups of out-of-town businessmen: assholes who arrived acting like they were above it all, then climbed on stage, drooling, after downing a bottle of table-service vodka.

Melodie, a dancer who’d worked here almost as long as I had, arrived at my side, her tits sparkling with sweat and glitter from her last set.

“Hey, Nick.” Her eyes were wide and worried, so I bent down to hear her over the pounding music. “Have you seen Angel?”

I shook my head and then scanned the room. Diamond was on stage, gyrating trancelike through her routine, and five other dancers were scattered around, grinding their asses into laps or pressing their tits near the customers’ faces. No sign of Angel.

I bent back down. “Why? She missing?”

Melodie bit the side of her hot-pink lip. “She’s pretty stoned. Last I saw her, she was doing a champagne-room dance for one of the bachelor parties. Haven’t seen her since.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah. If Stan catches her doing tricks on the side again, she’ll be out on her ass.”

“I’ll check the alley.”

I nodded toward the other bouncer, Dom, who took my place at the front door, then I wove through the field of drunken men and writhing women toward the dark hallway that led past the girls’ dressing room and the kitchen to the back entrance.

As head of security for Solid Gold, I was supposed to tell our boss, Stan, if the girls broke his rules, but the dancers trusted me not to rat, and that’s how I kept them safe from dangers worse than a missed paycheck.

Ninety-five percent of our customers were harmless, horny assholes, but the other five percent were trouble—trouble with a capital dick—men who treated these women like garbage on account of how they made rent.

I pushed open the back door, and it slammed against the metal rail of the fire escape behind it. Sure enough, Angel was staggering on her sky-high heels, attempting a private dance for four men who were laughing and hooting, egging her on.

“Me first,” one of them said. “I am so ready to go.” He grabbed Angel’s arm, yanking her to her knees on the piss-soaked asphalt.

“Party’s over, gentlemen.” I strode down the alley toward them.

“Fuck off,” said the one with his fly open. Bold words given he’d just exposed a handle for me to grab onto.

“Sorry, boys. This isn’t going to happen.” Reaching under Angel’s armpits, I lifted her to her feet. Blood trailed down her shins. Damn. Even if she could take the pain once she came down from this high, Stan wouldn’t let her work if her knees scabbed over.

“I’m good,” she slurred, her eyes glassy, unfocused. “Don’t worry, Nick.”

“Four assholes and one barely conscious girl…” Tucking Angel under one arm, I straightened to my full height of six seven and stared at the frat-aged partiers. “Guess I’d better call the cops.”

“Buddy, she agreed to do us.” The tallest one held up his hands in defense. “Bitch took our money. This is con-sens-u-al.” The guy was blond and clean-cut. I’d lay bets his name was Bro.

“Does she look like she’s in any shape to be offering consent?” Angel slumped against me, her ankles crying uncle to her platform shoes.

“Whatever,” said the asshole with his dick half out. “Then the skank owes us two hundred bucks. Fifty per blow job.”

“I paid a hundred to fuck her,” said a guy from the shadows. “Either she bends over to take it, or I’m getting my hundred back.”

“And I’m calling the cops.” I reached for my phone.

“No fucking way.” The guy from the shadows ran at me swinging, which was kind of a joke.

Without even releasing my hold on Angel, I raised my other arm to block his punch. The guy swung again, and I grabbed his fist midair and twisted. He dropped to his knees.

“While you’re down there”—I nodded toward the asshole zipping his dick into his khakis—“maybe you can suck your friend’s cock.”

He looked up at me with terror in his eyes.

I kicked him onto his ass. “Get the fuck out of here. Now.”

The four men scrambled down the alley, the one who’d tried to punch me limping, and when they got close to the street, the blond bro turned back. “You’re going to be sorry, you piece of scum. So will the owner of this piece-of-shit strip club. Our lawyer will be in touch.”

Good luck with that, I thought. I’d heard plenty of threats over the years, threats more credible than that one. Men like Bro would never follow through, avoiding shame worth a million times more than whatever damages they thought they were owed.

Angel stroked my chest. “Nick to the rescue.”

“What the fuck, Angel?” I helped her walk toward the door on her shaky heels. “Going into the alley with four drunk customers? You got a death wish?”

I immediately wanted to eat my words. Some of these girls actually did have death wishes, at least subconsciously. But I was no shrink. Wasn’t my job to fix these girls, just keep them safe. At least that’s how I saw my job.

To Stan it was more like: make sure the customers paid and the girls didn’t take any of what he saw as his cash on the side.

“I need the money,” Angel mumbled as I helped her up the stairs. “And besides, I took some E. I’m horny.” She rubbed up against me. “How ‘bout you fuck me, Nick?” She grabbed my package. “My way of saying thanks.”

“Cut it out.” I pulled her hand off me. “It’s the Ecstasy talking.”

“No, it’s not. Come on.” She ground her ass against me. “Let me have a taste of that famous big dick.”

I banged on the steel door, and she took the opportunity to grab my hardening cock. After two years, you’d think I’d be immune to the dancers. My brain was, mostly, but my dick couldn’t get with the program.

Melodie opened the door a crack. “Thank god, Angel. You okay?”

“Get her bag,” I told Melodie, who quickly disappeared into the dressing room.

“At least let me suck you off.” Angel slid down my body.

I bent to lift her back up. “Not a chance.”

“Why?” she whined. “I know you want it. You’re already hard.” She kept rubbing me. “Let me take care of you, Nick. Don’t you like me? What’s wrong with me?”

“You’re high.”

“So what?” She fondled her barely covered tits, pressing them together. “I’m a better lay when I’m high.” She went for my fly, and I grabbed both her wrists in one hand.

Melodie showed up at the door and tossed me Angel’s shit. I draped her coat over her shoulders and started to walk her down the alley toward the street. Holding her under one arm, I ordered an Uber.

“We going to your place?” she asked. “I’ll treat you real good, Nick, I promise. You can even fuck my ass.”

I helped her shove her arms into her coat as we waited for the car to arrive. As soon as it did, I tucked her inside, then made sure the driver had her address. I had all the dancers’ addresses set up on my account for times like this. Stan wouldn’t reimburse me, but I didn’t give a shit.

“Aren’t you coming?” She leaned across the seat toward me.

“Sleep it off,” I said. “And clean up those knees or they’ll get infected.”

I passed a fifty to the driver.

“Already paid,” he said in a thick accent. “Your account?” He pointed to his phone.

“I know. Just make sure she gets home, okay? Safe—and alone. If I find out you followed her inside…” I glared at the man.

“Okay, boss. No problem.” The driver took the bill, and I closed the door. Angel slumped against the other side, looking about fourteen years old, even though I knew she was a decade older, at least—probably older than me. Shit, this job could be depressing. But at least it was legit.

I headed back into the club. My brothers had scoffed when I’d told them I wanted to go straight. And my da…

I wasn’t the one to tell the old man. One of my brothers had ratted me out—most likely Shane—and Da tore a strip off me last time I visited San Quentin. Old man knew the right buttons to push.

Patrick Downey raised us five boys to believe the so-called family business was what we were born to, all we were good for, but he was wrong. At least that’s what I kept telling myself, because there was no way I was going to end up spending my life in prison like my old man.

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