Combust Chapter 1 Reveal
“Fuck, this thing doesn’t fit right. One of my nuts is going to bust out in the middle of a song.”
The third Thursday of the month was always the weirdest—and easily the most frustrating—day of work for me. Or, at least, it had been for the last six of them. Working in strip clubs since I was nineteen, I’d long ago reached the point where little phased me. I imagined it was kind of like being a gynecologist. At first, it had to be super awkward to be all up in women’s vaginas all day, but after a while, you’re just desensitized to it.
After six years of working with women who took their clothes off for a living, and doing the same myself, I’d been pretty sure I had seen and heard it all. Once you have a coworker come up to you and ask you to look at her blotchy, red crotch because she’s having an allergic reaction to body glitter, you start to think there are no surprises left in the world.
Then, the friendly neighborhood motorcycle club buys the joint and institutes a shocking—though, admittedly, genius—plan to have an all-male revue once a month.
That alone had been jarring enough. If I were to name the changes I thought might have been coming when the Savage Disciples MC took over, it would have been going fully nude. I’d stripped in four states, so I knew a thing or two about the industry. Part of that knowledge being Oregon was one of the most lax states in the country when it came to strip clubs. Unlike most, they allowed full nudity in clubs that served alcohol.
Candy Shop hadn’t taken advantage of that, though. The club’s previous owner had been staunch to the ideal that fully nude dancers and liquored up customers were a recipe for headaches. He also insisted any added income that might have come from having us take it all off was pointless because it’d be eaten up by having to hire more security. Rick Remington—that was his real name, though he would never answer me when I tried to find out if he’d been born with it or changed it once he decided his career path—wasn’t cheap. He didn’t skimp on security or anything else when it came to his girls. Of all the clubs I’d worked in, he was by far my favorite manager. So, if he was going to have us up there completely nude, he would absolutely have beefed up on bouncers. As it was, our security was unrivaled.
I’d been mildly surprised when the MC decided to keep this stance on how to run the club. It was also good news. I might have six years of regularly being on a stage in just a thong, but that didn’t mean I was ready for that last bit of coverage to disappear. I also wasn’t itching to go job hunting.
What had shocked me was the announcement about male revue night. It was a surprising move anywhere, but coming from a bunch of bikers just made the move even more so.
That decision was how my third Thursdays changed from being a shift starting at six in the evening involving just me dancing, to starting at eleven in the morning wrangling seven fussy males who caused more headaches in a single day than the girls managed the rest of the month combined.
“JJ, it fits fine. We measured you for it and had it custom made. Your goods are the same size they were three weeks ago,” I tried for a patient tone. And failed. JJ just brought it out of me.
“You never know, Cherry Pie,” he drawled back at me, giving me a smile that had most of our female customers creaming their panties, if the money they threw at him was any indication. Unfortunately for him, since he’d been trying to get into my panties since he started, it did nothing for me.
Sure, I might have appreciated the view at first, but that was before he opened his mouth and the endless stream of bullshit and whining started flowing out.
“Honey, you have nothing in that banana hammock that interests me. I promise. It could grow six inches by tomorrow, and I still won’t be dropping to my knees for you.”
“Shot down!” one of the other guys, Brock, chimed in.
“Seriously, asking as a concerned friend, when was the last time you got some?” JJ kept at me. “Dick, pussy, both? Whatever gets you there.”
I gave him a look that told him straight up we were not those type of friends. Though, I couldn't help but think it’d been a lot longer than I would have cared to admit even if we were. And the “some” I got wasn’t worth writing home about. Hell, even that was an exaggeration. I hadn’t gotten off, and I’d eventually faked it just to get it over with. For a man who hadn’t been overly well-endowed, it had been a pounding in the least appealing sense. I’d been sore by the time I decided it was best just to put on a show and get out of there.
“We don’t have time for your shit today. Did you work on the routine I showed you last week?” I asked, bringing JJ back to the task at hand.
As cocky as he was, I believed him. JJ loved this gig, and he surprisingly always took it seriously. He was never one of the guys I had to worry about not practicing when I gave them new material. Personally, I thought he was trying to prove how lucrative the club would be in some hope the Disciples might have seen the wisdom of expanding and giving him a full time gig of taking money from horny women.
The way the line wrapped around the building on ladies’ nights, with women coming all the way out from Portland for the show, I wasn’t sure this would be a bad move.
“Good. Let’s see it,” I ordered, then hit a button on the remote in my hand to cue up the track. Roth, our DJ, wouldn’t be in until closer to opening.
JJ got on with his routine, hitting everything as expected and proving the G-string he had on definitely wouldn’t be an issue.
Halfway through, the front door opened, letting in a stream of sunlight from outside. I glanced over my shoulder, saying a silent prayer—in case God chose to tune in to prayers coming out of strip clubs.
Whether it was my pleas being answered or just a coincidence, I didn’t really care. All that mattered was the man walking in the club wasn’t the person I feared it might be. These Thursdays were trying enough without him around.
Instead, it was another one of the Savage Disciple brothers, Ham.
“Fuck, I shoulda known those assholes sent me here to find you because it was fuckin’ sausagefest day,” he muttered as he dropped his eyes from the stage. His voice notched even lower, but he headed my way, so I caught his words as he said, “Max would just love this shit.”
Outside of them running the club, I hadn’t interacted with any of the Disciples, so I had no idea who Max was.
“Avery,” Ham greeted as he got close, notably positioning himself near me so his back was to the stage where JJ was still grinding and thrusting away.
Ham was easily one of the biggest men I’d ever seen in my life. He had to be a foot taller than my five-five, and seemed to be twice as wide—that width being made up of enough muscle to make me think he could replace the entire security staff by himself.
“We’re gonna shut down to the public on the fifteenth. Private party. Need you to get a small group together to do a show that night. Girls will be compensated at double time, plus the generous end of a normal weekend night’s tips. Yeah?”
Damn, that was a good deal. It was also the kind of thing that bred drama from girls who weren’t chosen.
“How many do you want?”
“Five? Ish.” He shrugged. “Let you make the final call.”
I really, truly, didn’t want to make the final call. Picking five girls was already going to be hard enough, and I was going to have to be sure they were all ones who would keep their traps shut about this to those who didn’t make the cut.
I’d worked hard to prove I could, and should, do more than just be on stage. I’d been paying my dues in every club I’d worked in. It wasn’t that I’d always dreamed of being a manager at a strip club, but life wasn’t always about what you wanted. Sometimes, it was about making the most of what you had. At nineteen, stripping was the best income I could make, so I went with it. Now, I knew I could hack it running the show, and I was determined to prove that.
I liked being in my position. In particular, I liked the pay raise and the fact that I only danced on weekends. My hope was I’d be able to cut out even those limited hours on stage before long. Still, there were times I yearned for the days when I wasn’t responsible for dealing with all the drama.
JJ’s routine ended, the music cutting out and another song not filling the void. With the room significantly quieter, I let myself focus on him to keep my afternoon on schedule.
“Good,” I announced, having watched even while Ham spoke. As expected, JJ hadn’t missed a beat. “You have your schedule for tonight?”
“Got it, babe.” He really was quite a sight—muscled, sweaty, and nearly naked. That still didn’t mean I wanted the endearment.
“Then get off my stage.”
My attitude didn’t dull his flirty smile for a second as he moved to the stage exit. “Get Adam out here,” I called at his retreating back. He threw a thumbs up over his shoulder as he disappeared, and I moved my attention to Ham.
“Got it. Five girls. Do you want a list of names in advance?”
“Not necessary. We’ve got bartenders and Roth handled, so you just make sure you’ve got girls lined up and we’re good.”
“Right. I’ll take care of it.”
Ham gave his own brand of flirty smile. Unlike JJ’s that was meant to entice, Ham’s was more along the lines of “I know I can make you scream for me.” It was more effective, but seemingly subconscious. It was as natural to him as breathing, not an effort to get attention. If the gossip I overheard from the other girls was right, he had a woman and he didn’t stray.
Good for him.
With a nod, he started heading out, still pointedly keeping his eyes away from the stage and the couple guys hanging around in the main room half-naked. After a couple steps, he stopped and turned back to me.
“Make sure your own name is on that list,” he tacked on. “The guest of honor will be disappointed if it isn’t.”
The knowing grin he had when he said that left no question as to who that guest was.
One of the Disciples, also the one who took charge of the shop—as everyone had taken to calling it. From what I could tell, it was his idea to buy the place when Rick decided to sell. He wasn’t an uncommon face around here even before that. Now, he was in all the time.
He was also hot as sin and constantly in my space. For whatever reason, I had become a point of interest for him. He was flirty with all the girls—I guessed he might be flirty with any female regardless of interest—but it was always a passive thing, until he got near me. Then, it was no holds barred. One way or another, he always made his interest very clear. Too bad for him, I wasn't sleeping with the boss. I never had, and I never would.
Ham knew how much the request would irritate me, it was precisely why he looked so pleased with himself. More importantly, he also knew I wouldn’t say no.
“Right,” I replied shortly.
“Just gonna say,” Ham started, that shit-eating grin not going anywhere, “if you’re ever plannin’ to throw the asshole a bone, it’ll be his birthday.”
With that, he finally walked away, weaving through the tables and out the front door without turning back.
Looks like you’ll be dancing for Daz. My brain decided to dwell on that fact even as I instructed Adam to get on stage and cued up the song for him. It wasn’t like I had never done so before. Still, somehow I knew this was going to be different. I just hoped “different” wasn’t going to blow up in my face.