About the Book
Crystal Sheridan is a professional stripper, an alcoholic, a drug user, and homeless. Laura Taylor is a lesbian, professional writer, obsessive tidier, and control freak. Fate brings them together as improbably housemates. Can Laura and Crystal break through their carefully constructed walls against the past and learn to get along and start to embrace life again?
“Both BL Miller and Verda Foster have covered some extremely sensitive topics brilliantly. Child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, and infidelity are just some of them. But the book is written with such understanding that what could be a big turn off for a reader, actually makes a reader understand more about the subjects, without getting too heavy. I only wish BL Miller and Verda Foster would write more books.” — Terry’s Lesfic Reviews
The crowd became louder as the lights dimmed. Behind the curtain, Crystal double-checked the fittings on her peel-away outfit. She listened to Rick, the club manager, welcome everyone and announce the list of women who would be performing that evening. Two women dressed in skimpy costumes brushed past her to take their positions on stage. Crystal nodded and waited next to the center pole.
“And so, without further ado,” Rick said, “here are the Tom Cat Kittens, starring Crystal Peaks.”
The curtain lifted and the music began. Crystal wrapped her calf around the pole, waiting for the right moment. The driving, sexy beat was designed to intensify the erotic mood of the show, and she knew how to use it to her advantage. Experience had taught her well, and she quickly targeted the most likely candidates for large tips. She faced the most promising prospect, a middle-aged man with several bills in his hand, and gave him a wink and spun around the pole. The girls on either side of her did likewise, and they fell into the often-performed routine. The music changed, and Crystal tugged the corset away from her body. Giving a false smile to the cheering crowd, she shook and wiggled her breasts as she had so many times before.
She moved along the edge of the stage and bent down to let a patron tuck money into her G-string. A large hand reached out and pulled her off the platform. She landed on the lap of a balding man, his hand still gripping her arm.
“I want a little more than shaking for my money, baby,” he said, using his free hand to paw at her exposed breasts.
“Get your fucking hands off me.” Crystal struggled to free herself, but the man held tight.
A bouncer slipped between the tables and grabbed the man. “Hands off the merchandise, buddy.” Another bouncer arrived, and the drunk reluctantly removed his roving hand from Crystal’s breasts.
“You’re out of here,” the first bouncer said and pulled the man to his feet.
“Ah, come on, guys. I didn’t hurt her none.”
Crystal watched the bouncers escort the man through the crowd and started for the backstage door. Her heart was still pounding hard, and adrenaline pumped through her body.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Rick asked.
“Will it hurt you to give me a couple minutes, Rick?”
“Time is money, sweetheart. You’re on my time. Now get back up there and earn what I pay you.”
A waiter placed a drink on a table several rows back from the stage. “Will there be anything else?”
“I’m all set,” Peter said and turned to Laura. “What about you?”
“I’m fine.” She looked up at the waiter and nodded to the bouncers escorting the balding man from the room. “Does this sort of thing happen often?”
“Don’t worry, ma’am, our bouncers have everything under control.”
“Oh, I’m not worried. I just wondered if this type of disturbance is a regular occurrence.”
“We get one or two like him every once in a while, but no, not often.”
Laura smiled, nodded her thanks to the young man, and jotted down a few notes in her notepad.
“Are you sure you don’t want something besides club soda?” Peter asked.
Laura put her pen down on the notepad. “Remember, getting me drunk doesn’t help your cause at all. Better to spend your money on Studley over there.” She pointed at one of the bouncers.
“Oh yeah, fat chance of that,” Peter said. He ran his fingers through his thinning red hair and looked at the bouncer again. “You think he is?”
“Well . . .” Laura took another sip of her club soda. “If he is, you’d better hope he’s into receiving and not giving or you’ll be a sore little man tomorrow.”
“Oh but for a man like that.” Peter sighed, earning a chuckle from Laura. “And what about you?” He motioned with his eyes at the stage. “A pair like those could smother you.”
“Yeah, but what a way to go.” Laura finished her drink and set the empty glass down on the table. “However, that’s not why we’re here.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re just getting the layout right for the story. Jeez, you gonna pine away forever?”
“I’m not pining away. I just don’t think a stripper is exactly what I’m looking for in a partner.”
“Who said anything about lifelong commitment? I’m talking about you taking Miss Big Tits back to your place and rocking her world for the night.” He leaned back and lit a cigarette. “Come on. You need more in your life than your computer and your stories. You gotta admit she’s a good-looking package.”
“Thanks, but no thanks. We’re just here so I can get the details right.” Despite her words, Laura let her gaze drift to the voluptuous blonde on the stage. She tracked the stripper’s movements as she danced around the center pole.
“It’s your choice,” he said, shaking his head. “Nothing wrong with a little tumble in the hay once in a while.”
Laura smiled. “You’re such a slut. You live with Michael and yet run around like a single man. You must buy condoms by the case.”
“At least I don’t need a calendar to remember when I last had sex.” Laura gave him a death glare but he ignored her and looked back at the stage. “Say what you want, my dear. I say you’re still pining away for her.”
“I am not.” Laura jabbed his arm with her elbow.
“Jenny left four years ago. Four years, and you’re still living alone. If you don’t call that pining away, what do you call it? You’re still hoping she’s going to come back. Admit it.”
Laura shook her head. “I accepted a long time ago all Jenny and I can be is friends. I have come to a decision, though.”
“About Miss Big Tits?”
“Do you have to be so crude? And no, it’s not about her. It’s about finances. I’ve put this off as long as I could, but I have to face the facts. My income will not allow me to continue living alone. The money my dad left me is almost gone. If I can get a roommate to share expenses, I’ll be okay. I’ve thought long and hard about this, because the thought of taking a stranger into my home doesn’t thrill me.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place, my dear. You know we’re the best rental agency in town.”
“What I know is you’re my friend, and I trust you.” Laura flipped through the pages of her pad and ripped out a sheet of paper, pulled a key from her pocket, and handed them both to Peter. “I made a list to help you screen potential roommates.”
Peter took the list and read over it. “Don’t blame me, Miss Picky, if I can’t find anyone who meets your high standards. I don’t think the pope himself would meet your requirements.”
“You think I’m being unreasonable?”
“Unreasonable?” Peter threw his head back and laughed. “You want a nonsmoker, nondrinker, first and last month’s rent, plus an additional month for security. No pets, no kids, no—”
“I get it,” she said. “I’m not that bad, but I have to be able to live with the person.” She sighed. “Don’t you know any gay guys looking for a place?”
“You wouldn’t want any of the ones I know, trust me.” He drained his glass. “They’re all neurotic or hopelessly hung up on either their mothers or their ex’s.”
“Oh, you mean like you?”
Peter feigned a hurt look for a second before grinning. “Well, at least I’m getting it from someone other than Rosy Palm and her five friends.”
“Touché,” Laura said as she looked at her watch. “It’s getting late, and I have to meet with my publisher early tomorrow.”
“They still won’t move your deadline?”
Laura shook her head. “You’d think I asked for a million dollar bonus and a one-year extension.” She rose to her feet and grabbed her jacket. “Thanks for coming with me tonight.” She picked up her notebook and purse after Peter helped her with her jacket. “Call me as soon as you find someone who might work out.” She glanced one more time at the woman on the stage.
As they headed toward the door, Peter spotted a corkboard with dozens of business cards tacked to it. “Ah, there’s a good idea.” He pulled one of his cards from his pocket and pinned it to the middle of the board.