Cowgirl

They've always called me Cowgirl, but I suppose it had a lot more to do with my style than my music selection. My old school rock songs just had that beat, and those words just seemed sooo incredibly sexy when I got to dress up like a hot little bad girl in my stylish cowboy hat. It complimented my outfits perfectly, and I had no problem dancing up on stage in that way that insults every high society lady's delicate sensibilities.

I didn't revel in it; it was just work. But hell if I didn't take a little pleasure in the way every man's eyes seemed locked on me; wanting. It's that way for all the girls when they're on stage, but hell, gimee a break, Sugar. It's a hell of a lot of fun.

Of course, it wasn't my only job and it would never be. Still, it was the only job I did that was both legal and believable . . . Plus, it was the most fun.

I grabbed the pole, swung around in the way that was the most enjoyable, propelled myself upside down, and wrapped my legs tight to keep me that way. The boyos gathered round to give me tips; ones and fives. Thirty bucks every time I got up there, easy as pie. Plus at least three hundred a night for all the VIPs I did.

I let go and walked to the front of the runway-like stage, letting my eyes scan the crowd for potential boys easy to con out of their hard earned money. I saw him then, his eyes gleaming almost preternaturally in the semidarkness that enveloped the room. Ah, so he'd followed me. Again.

It wasn't like I could blame the guy, and really I was just glad that this particular sweetie just so happened not to be a sociopath serial killer. I just hate when those ones show up; makes me all paranoid to walk outside and such.

I started floor work only a moment later, dropping to my knees and shaking my ass for one of my regulars; he always tipped me with fifties. I liked him. A lot. Once that was done, I laid on my back and playfully opened my legs as if one of these desperate men and college boys could get some from me.

Psh. But at least I was smart enough not to let slip that I was still a virgin. Not exactly pure considering my line of work, but I'd never had much time for sex. After Junior High and my usual summer kissing fests, I'd moved onto bigger and better things. First, it was trying to be a witch (I wanted to scare my mother), and when that actually worked, I got my ass kicked by some of the girls from the local "Coven," and accidentally threw myself into the realization that supernatural things really did exist.

For that, some things actually wanted my cute little ass dead; so I did what I could, learned how to kill 'em, and got on with it. On my way, I'd made a few friends, of which this vampire boy wasn't one; at least not so far as I knew. I didn't know for sure if he wanted me dead, but we'd spoke before, and he made a point to laugh at me for being a virgin. He read it from my mind (so he said) and felt the need to tell me I needed to rectify that situation. I was missing out.

And with the way these boyos seemed to pine and want, I was sure as fire it was something to be missed. Why else would these guys be drooling over me, so horny and desperate for some female attention? Maybe after vampire boy over there stopped stalking my very endowed body, I'd pick a cutie and get laid. Or I could just whine to Scotty, my vampire friend, and have him made to stop following me around.

The song ended; my cue to get my well-paid ass off stage and give the next girl a chance. She was a young one, like me, but she was new. I absolutely had no time to get to know her to see if I'd ever have liked her in the first place, but she kind of grew on me when, after I offered her a hand to help her walk down the step that led to the runway, she gave me a smile and said thanks.

Having a job like this made most of the girls overconfident bitches who thought the expression, "Thank you," was so above them. And maybe later this girl would, too, but for now I decided that she was in my good graces. Besides, she looked pretty damn good in the skimpy clothes she'd asked me to lend her. She liked my clothes. Said she'd never met a real cowgirl before.

Backstage was the usual hellhole, but I was only concerned in getting into a pair of pants (that showed my ass, of course; those boys can get pretty prickly about not showing some good, supple flesh) and a new top. Once I had that done, I was off to confront vampire boy; see what he wanted from the local "whore house." His words, ladies, not mine. I thought the place was pretty damn nice and hell of a lot more respectful to women than any other strip club I'd been to.

When I walked out, a couple of college boys deterred me by asking me to sit with them, and I knew I didn't really have much of a choice. Wouldn't be very nice of me to refuse their hard earned cash when I took half of them back in the VIP room for a strip tease, now would it?

"How are you boys tonight?" I asked rather loudly, as to be heard over the loud, sexy music playing for my little stripper-in-training. I took a seat on the one of the available zebra striped chairs and gave them my best bedroom smile.

They, of course, fell for it. Every single one of them felt the need to introduce themselves, like I actually gave a shit who they were. I just kept trying to be subtle about making sure vampire boy hadn't taken off on me. I really felt the need to ask him what was so up his ass tonight that he'd had to come and bother me when I was hard at work.

I contented myself in pouting that the girl up on stage was new, and she was a little nervous. Did any of them have a ten or a twenty I could tip her with? It would make her feel a lot better and they'd think it was worth it when they got to see her take her top off for the next song.

I got handed thirty five dollars in all, which sort of ticked me off; but the new girls here always get it good on the first couple of nights. I think I made a hundred from stage alone on my first night, so I wasn't really complaining. I just wished it stayed that easy as things went on so I didn't have to do so many damn VIPs.

She smiled at me and knelt down in a way that had one college boy licking his lips. She was young and still so innocent; I wanted to bash his fucking face in for looking at her like that. I wanted to smack her around a bit for taking the job, but I just smiled at her, whispered that she could probably sucker them out of a hell of a lot more money later, and slipped the thirty five dollars into her garter.

From there, we watched in silence as Cutie (I didn't really remember what her name was) finished her song and then did the second one. After that, it was working time, and I took four out of the five boys back into the VIP room (one at a time, of course), made almost one hundred and twenty bucks out of the deal, and headed over to talk to vampire boy. It was almost an hour later.

Another stripper was trying desperately to get him to pay her for a dance, but he declined sweetly, saying he was waiting for a friend, and besides, he was almost all tapped out. She had the audacity to point out that he hadn't had a dance all night, and he retorted that he had just come to see a friend on stage. I was just about to intervene and possibly save the stupid girl's life, when Cutie came along and chased her away.

"TONI!" she squealed in false excitement. I would have been fooled, but I knew that she didn't know him. "I can't believe you actually came to see me!" she said as sat down and pretended to have a nice conversation with him.

The other stripper took the dismissal with failing grace, chancing a glare back at Cutie. I gave her a look that, if she was smart, would have sent her packing; but there you have it, not everyone in the world can have brains. It would make the world harder to control, you know.

Still, she walked away and that left only Cutie to get rid of before I could start having a real conversation with vampire boy. I was almost amazed beyond words when she stood up a couple of moments later, pulled the chair out for me, and bid us both goodbyes.

I watched her skip happily away in awe, pulled down a different path of thought as I watched her. I didn't know a single person who could skip in stiletto stripper heels without looking as if she was tripping. I had been awed and impressed with her ability to read body language and looks with almost supernatural ease.

"She's not a pixie or a nymph, is she?" I asked, batting my eyelashes at vampire boy to annoy him. He didn't answer immediately, so I moved on to business. "So, what brings you to the 'whore house' tonight, Toni?"

He smiled at the name; though Italian, his name was not Anthony. It was Vitelli. For the first time in the few months I'd known him, he didn't look annoyed at someone else's assumptions. If anything, he looked over at Cutie with an appreciation of her beauty in a way that only Italians were capable of. Stupid vampire. She'd tied him to me, and she wasn't about to try to talk to him every again. Unless they already knew each other.

"Just stopping by to see a friend," he lied. His smile said it all; something was up, and I had to just sit there to let the fact that he'd come here to warn me or at least clue me in. I didn't even have to ask him, and I didn't think any of my supernat friends would have sent him; they'd have come.

"So what's the bad news?" I asked. "And do you know Cutie or something? She arrived before the sunset, so I don't think she's a vampire, but hell. Who knows?"

He laughed good-naturedly and patted the hand I had on the table. Unsurely, he set his over it and squeezed lightly. "You don't know what you are, Cowgirl," he said quietly. His eyes were locked on mine and he was serious. Whatever he was about to tell me was serious.

"Who died? What did I do? Did I kill him?"

Vitelli just shook his head and sighed, moving his hand away from mine as he got a glare from Bill, one of the many bodyguards who made extra sure that all the girls were okay and well cared for. He didn't take kindly to guys trying to get overly friendly. Vitelli would have made a scene; I just know he would have, but he needed to talk to me, and being kicked out right now didn't serve his purposes.

"Shifter," he whispered, searching my eyes desperately for a sign of understanding. He sighed and ran a hand through his shoulder length, poker straight black hair and slouched in his chair when he found none. He was so un-vampire-like when he pretended we were close. All for show, darlings, all for show. "It's . . . damn it, Cowgirl, I wouldn't normally give a shit; you know I wouldn't. This is different. If some asshole was after your blood, I wouldn't think a thing of it because you can protect yourself. But there's a pack moving in, and your being untrained in your . . . craft and . . . this," he gestured to the stage, "won't bode well with them. They're territorial."

I crossed my arms over my chest and gave him a scrutinizing look. "C'mon, Vitelli. A pack? What pack?"

"Werewolves," he whispered. "They petitioned us – the vampires – for territory, and offered protection and money – and all this other shit we don't need – if we'll just accommodate them. We're worried about you. Scotty and Auriel are against it, but they don't stand firm enough with the Council to really do anything about it."

"Scotty and Auriel should own the damn Council," I grumbled, watching as a waitress stopped by and asked Vitelli if he would like something to drink. He ordered some Tequila and she left.

I merely raised an eyebrow.

"I completely agree, but Auriel lives by his own rules and would laugh in your face if you offered him the chance to have control over so many vampires. He'd deal with that by killing us all. You know he hates our kind. And we're not match for him, Cowgirl."

"I know." I sighed. They called my name for stage, and for the first time since I'd started work here, I grumbled about it.

Standing up, I told Vitelli to wait here, I'd be back, and left for stage. I dressed in record time – a pair of very revealing leather shorts and a top to match – and slinked my way gracefully out to stage as a dirty little song played for me and I moved my body in the most sexual ways possible. It was impossible to tell who was who and my eyes were dulled and my actions more, well, sensual is the word, I suppose.

My mind was on what Vitelli had told me. I knew what I was – to a certain extent – though shifter isn't exactly the word I used for it. Sure, it suited me perfectly; I shifted from one thing to another, but hell, I'd always thought of it as becoming a shadow. And what in the hell did werewolves asking for territory here have to do with me and what I was? So I was a supernatural something that danced on stage and took her clothes off for anyone willing to give her money. It wasn't like I was using glamour and cheating, so why did they care?

I finished one song, took off my top and bottoms so I could prance around in nothing but my heels, garter, and thong for the boys. I couldn't concentrate, so I just started some floor work, got tips; moved to the other side and did the same; and then to the front. Same thing. And then the song was finished, so I picked up my clothes, and headed into the back.

I grabbed my pants and a different but equally skimpy top before heading out for Vitelli again. When I sat down, I noticed that Bill was eyeing me, and that meant I'd either have to move on and get some boyos into the back or I'd have to get Vitelli to take me. (They were probably complaining that I was spending so much time with the Italian man and he wasn't buying my product, which wasn't fair, because they wanted to.)

His eyes widened considerably when I told him that. I thought he was going to start trying to sputter a refusal in another second, so I was equally shocked – shocked enough, actually, to almost choke on the shot of Tequila he'd handed me – when he asked me if I thought five thousand dollars would suit me.

"Five? Five thou?" I stuttered. "It's only twenty for a dance, but most guys want two or three. At least, from my experience, they do."

He seemed to consider that, a small frown on his face. "You're worth much more than that, Cowgirl." He sounded pissed. Pissed.

"Right," I said, hoping to divert his attention. "But that's just standard and I usually get one hell of a tip, so no worries. You want the dance, darling?"

He smiled. "Do I want to see you naked, you mean?" His eyes moved up and down my body. "I already saw most of you up there." He pointed to the stage.

"It's more personal in there. And if we get a spot way in the back, we can probably talk without anyone overhearing." I gestured toward the VIP room, the inside blocked from view by heavy black velvet curtains. "I have quite a few questions for you about what in the hell werewolves have to do with me, anyway."

He didn't smile at that. Actually, he huffed out a breath and groaned. "Ever persistent, aren't you?"

"It was all I could think about on stage. I don't even know how bad I did, so I'm a little surprised that no one's come over to tell me I'm fired."

Vitelli looked a little startled at that, and he tried to move his hand to cover his mouth so I wouldn't see him smile. I snapped at him enough that he gave in and, after I grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the VIP room, he said, "I've been watching you all night, you know, and I have to say that you should definitely move the way you did that time more often. You looked like you were having an orgasm or that someone was touching you and it felt really good. Didn't you notice how many guys had crowded the stage to tip you?"

"No," I replied honestly. "All my thoughts were on you." I batted my eyelashes at him and I could have sworn I saw the vampire pale. It made me laugh.

We were comfortably in the furthest corner from Jay; I stood in front of Vitelli and explained that I had to wait for the next song to start before I stripped. And that the guy watching us was Jay, the one who kept an eye on the VIP and took the three dollars each stripper had to give up for every use. Hey, the club had to make money, too, and three dollars left the girls with seventeen out of the twenty required, which was only 15 percent.

When the song started, Vitelli's eyes swept down my body over and over and he pressed his thin – but very nice – lips together as if trying not to get hard. Vampires can't get hard, but that's Vitelli for you; he always played a very good human. He even looked like he was breathing.

"Can I just watch and not be bombarded with questions?" he asked rather meekly as I leaned forward and put my hands on either side of him, sweeping up as if I was trying to press against him and ride him.

"No," I retorted. "If you want to just watch, buy a couple more dances, because you're not going to stop answering my questions until I run out of them."

"You'll pass out from exhaustion before that ever happens," he muttered, rather disappointed.

Funny, how he sort of forgot his disappointment as I reached for the ties to my top, tracing them and pouting as if begging him for his touch. He bit his lip and promptly stuck his hands in his pockets to keep himself from touching me. When I raised an eyebrow, he explained that he'd never had to appreciate such beauty from such a distance.

"So, what do werewolves moving here have to do with me?" I traced the top, still moving provocatively, but letting him know he'd see nothing if he didn't tell all.

Vitelli growled at that – and who wouldn't; that was blackmail – and answered curtly, "They view shifters as creatures below them and they're going to think you should live on their suffrage. They also want some of your parents' land, if not all of it."

My parents had a beautiful mansion on a farm; it was in the country near the suburbs and had horses and cows; the works. They were farmers, and that was part of the reason I had the nickname Cowgirl. If they wanted that land, I told Vitelli as I sexily untied the strings and guided the top down – slowly – they'd pay for it. Handsomely.

And then I did the nice thing and shut up for a minute as my top fell to the floor. I danced for him, making sure I did one hell of a good job, and he shut up for a minute, too.

"So, you tell them that if they want that land, they can pay me fairly for it, and keep their overgrown noses out of my shifter business, and we'll all get along great. How's that?" I fingered my belt.

He swallowed, watching. I wondered if he'd even heard me, but I wondered even more how seeing a woman take off her clothes was so enthralling to him. Nothing distracted Vitelli. Nothing.

Finally, he answered, as if it had become apparent that I wasn't going to take anything else off until he gave me the answers I wanted. He was right about that, so I was happy when he answered, because Jay would give me one hell of a lecture about not doing my job right if I took any longer getting my clothes off. One song had already ended, and though it was only the beginning of the second, I should have been undressed thirty seconds into the first song and been redressed and doing it all over again for the second.

"We can barter for the land, yes," he said slowly, his mouth working convulsively. "But they'll stick their 'overgrown noses' into your business regardless. They already know about you; they already know you're under the protection of Scotty, Auriel, and myself. Not to mention however many other damn things you're friends with." He was muttering toward the end.

"Uh-huh. Just some demons of hell, ghosts, necromancers, angels, and other such anomalies." I started to slip the pants down over my thighs, smiling suggestively at him as they slipped down. "So why all the fuss?" I wanted to ask: Since when did I ever need yours or Scotty and Auriel's protection? And since when were we even friends? I didn't even know he liked me. Early this same night, I hadn't been sure whether he wanted me dead or not.

Things become clear at strange times. Auriel, scary vampire that he was, wouldn't let Vitelli near me if he thought he was a threat to my safety. Of course. Besides, just because Vitelli and I had our rough spots didn't mean we didn't get along. Hmm.

He didn't say anything for a long while, so I just gave him the dance he deserved; even leaning back against him and doing that dance that's like a lap dance where you never touch the lap. He liked it well enough, and I noticed him gripping the insides of his pockets because he wanted to touch me and couldn't. It was funny to me, because I'd never imagined a vampire could be turned on. But I guess that just because they can't have sex doesn't necessarily mean they can't get horny.

I finally got my thong off and started some floor work, which shocked the hell out of him. When I looked up at him – really looked at him – I wondered briefly if maybe I shouldn't have subjected him to such sweet torture. But a part of me was largely satisfied with the slight blush I saw on him. If he were alive, his face would have been flaming red; but being a vampire, there was only a light pink on his cheeks. It was cute.

Well, all that, and . . . my legs were starting to get tired. I'd been working hard tonight because living on your own creates a lot of bills, and I always made sure I had enough money to pay at the end of the month without tapping into my savings. So, floor work was nice, and I didn't mind taking my time. I didn't even know how many songs had passed, and I don't know if Vitelli did, either.

When whatever song was playing ended, I sat up and grabbed my thong, slowly put it on, and then my pants, followed by my top. Vitelli watched me in silence, almost pouting visibly; he apparently didn't want to let me get dressed again. Then again, I was sure now that he wanted to drag me into his coffin or bedroom or wherever he slept, strip me down, and . . . I wasn't sure what he'd do once he had me there, but at least he wouldn't have to grip his pockets and sulk because he couldn't touch me.

Once I was fully dressed, I reached out my hand and made him help me up before repeating myself. "Why all the fuss? If they know so many of you are protecting the little shadow girl, they won't dare mess with me."

"Shadow girl?" He must not have seen any need to actually answer the one question that had been bugging me since we'd first started talking.

"Yeah, I can sink into shadows and move around in them, or take the form of someone's shadow. That's how I move so fast when that rat trap of a car decides to break down on me. I think it's cursed, don't you? I've had it fixed I don't know how many times, and it just keeps on breaking down on me."

Vitelli stared at me for a moment before offering his arm to me. "I didn't know you could do that," he said slowly.

I took his arm and shrugged, waiting for him to go on.

"I was referring to your being able to change into an animal."

"I can't do that," I said, laughing as we walked toward the door. I thought about it, thought some more, and almost lost my balance as it hit me. "I can do that?" I nearly yelled.

Vitelli's eyes went wide. "Of course." He shook his head. "Untrained. Untrained. No wonder."

I watched as he bit his lip, silent all the way to where Jay sat, eyeing the both of us. I paid him the three dollars I had to for using the VIP room and waited for him to say something. He always had some sort of funny or witty remark for me when I finished a dance.

"You just made damn near a hundred dollars," he said wistfully. "That was five songs in a row. How're you still standing?"

Before Vitelli could assess him and decide to kill him or worse – I didn't like the way the vampire was eying Jay – I decided to say something. He didn't seem to think highly of a guy who got paid for sitting in the back of a VIP room, watching girls strip all night.

"Yeah, I'm feeling it." I leaned down to rub one of my calves. "You should carry me. And feed me." I smiled at Vitelli, having to nearly shout, "You can't actually carry me, Vitelli!" because he moved to pick me up and Jay was about to call security.

Vitelli backed off and contented himself with having his arm locked with mine. He smiled. "I can get you some food at least, right?"

To that, I smiled. "Yeah, we can use some of the ninety seven dollars I just got from you and buy lots of it."

He glowered. "I pay."

"Yeah, I know. With all the money you have to give me."

"No. That's for dancing. Try and pay for the food, and I'll tell Scotty you've been a bad girl." He smirked. "Of course, I could save you from having him bend you over his knee for stripping again if you let me pay for that, too."

Jay looked shocked. "You two know each other? Personally?"

I didn't know how to respond to that without making up some white lie, so I didn't. "He's an old friend," I said easily. "I feel really comfortable around him." Which wasn't a lie. "That's why he gets an extra special dance." And he did.

After we left, I was amazed that no one had taken Vitelli's spot, but that was probably because he'd chosen a spot pretty far away from the stage and not near where they served food. Good spot for trying to go unnoticed, but I'd noticed him anyway. He probably knew I would. He was most likely trying to hide from the other girls, not that it'd worked.

I motioned to my favorite waitress, Lucy, to come over. She told me to hold on a second and walked leisurely over to the bar to grab some menus. I really loved the food this place had; it was a four-star restaurant. Yum.

Vitelli seemed to be contemplating something, and it wasn't until I snapped, "WHAT?" that he answered.

"A werewolf could teach you how," he said quietly as we sat down. I made a cut-off because Lucy was walking toward us with the menus.

Stupid me. It wasn't until she set them down that I realized that the only thing Vitelli could put into his body was fresh, hot blood. He couldn't eat any of this good food, which was sad. I knew he'd order and make it look like he ate some of it, but he couldn't actually eat it. I wondered for a moment, as I skimmed the menu, if that would upset him.

He ordered before me. Steak. Rare. Some odd side dish; I didn't hear what it was. Coke. It all sounded so normal that I wanted to laugh, but I just got excited, ordered a Coke and some yummy chicken quesadillas, and watched as Lucy took the menus back with a smile of amusement. She walked away to put our orders in.

"A werewolf?" I asked to get the conversation rolling again.

"Yes, but unlike them, your transformation is painless. They look down on you for that . . .Well, some of them do. I think that in itself puts a very big wall between your species and theirs. Of course, I'd be pretty pissed, too." Vitelli smiled at me. "I don't know many of the werewolves coming in. Only two of them have any notoriety, and I don't know them well enough to trust them."

"Hmm," I replied, because he paused.

"You've heard of them." He paused again, this time because Lucy had come back with our drinks, at which point I remembered that I was about to eat and couldn't go on stage, so I asked her to inform the DJ of that so he didn't call my name.

"Of course, Cowgirly," she said with a smile.

I smiled back and she left to go talk to the DJ.

"The only werewolves I've ever really heard about round here is Bane and Barrock, but they're lone wolves. They own the car repair place, right?"

"It's called a garage, Cowgirl, but yes. And they just so happen to be the ones I'm referring to." He smiled at my quizzical look. "I had the same look on my face when they told me Bane was the Alpha." He took a sip of his Coke. "Barrock, from what I've heard, brought over his first fledgling. A boy like you."

"A boy like me." If I hadn't been so shocked at the possibility of meeting someone else with my same powers, I'd have probably laugh at his use of the word "fledgling." Vampires used that word, but werewolves didn't.

"Which is why I brought up werewolves training you."

We were both surprised when Lucy set our food down, giving us both weird looks. Thank the Lord that Vitelli is quick witted even at the worst of times, because he deterred her well enough that she laughed and let it go.

With his best smile he said, "We're friends from way back. I'm writing a book – which contains some supernatural critters for spice – and I made a character based off her." He indicated to me and smiled at the delight on Lucy's face.

"I want to read it when it's done!" she said after a small laugh. She smiled at him and turned on her heel.

I shoved a triangle into my mouth, glancing up at Vitelli. He was cutting the steak up like a gentleman and eating with the dignity of someone well trained in manners and very important in society. Vampires are sooooooo vain.

It took a second more to hit me. He was actually eating the food. Eating it.

"You're eating." I pointed at his food. Smiled.

"I can eat," he said defensively. He snorted. "You read too many vamp legends, Cowgirl. I bet you think I'm inept and can't have sex, either."

I laughed at that, shocked though I was, and shoved another triangle into my mouth. "So," I said, after chewing and swallowing. I changed the subject. "You're saying that I can turn into an animal, but it'd probably be best to be trained before I go and mess it up somehow. That's all fine and dandy. But you don't know if we can trust the werewolves? And what's with the boy? I've never heard of anyone like me."

Vitelli smiled and paused. He set the fork and knife down gracefully and said, "That's basically the story. The boy with them seems happy enough, so if you waited until we got to know them better, I bet they'd train you. Besides, this boy – and I'm surprised you haven't heard of him – is friends with Scotty and Auriel."

I sighed. "Okay, so . . . Hey! Wait a minute! If those overgrown wolves already have something just like me in their midst, then why would you have to come down here to warn me to be careful with them? Especially if that kid's friends with Scotty and Auriel . . . Anyone friends with Auriel hasn't got a thing in the world to worry about." I stopped talking because I felt the need to shove another triangle in my mouth.

Vitelli smiled at my eating habits and returned to his own meal for a few minutes. We ate in silence until he said, "Maybe I just wanted an excuse to see you."

I choked on my yummy little triangle, struggled for a second, and then swallowed it. I gave him my best game smile and crossed my arms. "I would have never guessed," I said, teasingly; and I would have teased him more had he not looked so vulnerable all of a sudden. Instead, I smiled at him and said, "Thanks."

He smiled back, his troubles washed away for the moment. "Besides, Scotty kept insisting that I talk to you and tell you I'm good. Or something like that. Did you really think I wanted you dead?"

I gave him a sheepish look. "There are a lot of things running around this city that would probably rip my heart out if they didn't have to answer to so many other things for doing it." I shrugged. "I didn't know; I never really got the chance to talk to you; get to know you. Circumstance threw us together." A demon invading Graveyard – the place where the vampires lived – when I had been visiting was the circumstance. We beat the shit out of it.

"Now you know," Vitelli said, as if needing to reassure me.

I smiled. "No, I knew when you started talking to me about shifters and werewolves."

We finished our meal in silence. I was sad toward the end of it, because I knew I had to go back to work, and I doubted highly that Vitelli planned to stay. He couldn't wait until after for me, unless he wanted to meet me somewhere besides here. Still, I brought it up and he said we could meet, but only if I wanted to go to Graveyard and meet Bane and Barrock. And, quite possibly, that boy we'd been talking about. The boy usually accompanied Barrock wherever he went.

I agreed to that and went back to work with a little extra giddy up, smiling at the comment Vitelli had thrown in. "I better leave, because if I don't, I'm going to gut every guy in here for looking at you like you're a piece of meat." And he didn't need reminding that this was my job; he just gave me his best game smile and told me he'd see me later.

XXX

I drove home in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. There was no need to dress up, because we left only after everyone else was gone and got escorted to our cars by bodyguards. I got the pleasure of having Bill tonight, and of having to explain to him that Vitelli was friend . . . I said that I hadn't seen him in a while and not to worry, I'd made plenty of money tonight.

I hadn't looked at the money in my garter to see how much I'd made when I changed my clothes. I just threw it in my purse and waiting for our cue to leave. But once I got into my car, I grabbed the roll of bills and counted. I about had a heart attack when I realized those "tens" that Vitelli had given me were hundreds, and that there was more than nine of them.

I'd made over two thousand dollars tonight. Two thousand. My heart was pounding as I pulled my car out of the lot and drove away. I was going to strangle Vitelli, and that was all I could think of as I drove home.

XXX

I decided to change my clothes when I got home; no use in being known as a stripper if I didn't look sexy no matter where I went or what time of day or night it was. I wasn't about to go out and let Vitelli, Scotty, or Auriel see me looking normal. They'd start to think something crazy, like that I was just a seventeen-year-old girl with a fake ID taking my clothes off for a living. Which was the truth. And you could really see it when I wore sweats.

Author's Rant: You might ask how I know this much about strippers and stripping. You go right on ahead and ask. I'm just going to stare at you and laugh. And . . . I'm not a stripper (anymore). But it was fun to try for a night . . . And learn how things went. So now I can write a story with a cool stripper girl in it and know how things run. That's how you write a great story: If you want to write about a lawyer; know the legal system.
Anyway . . . Thank you all so much for the reviews. I really love getting them. They make me smile all big and I want to dance (like a five-year-old. Nothing could motivate me enough to wear those six-inch stripper heels. They're impossible.)

Grey: Well, this story is kind of written in two parts. But don't worry! Davie and his nice little crew are coming back next chapter. (And since it's already written, I don't mind telling you that it's a very sexy chapter. Hehe. I should insert an evil grin somewhere in that sentence . . .)

Cyric (aka Jay): Hey, you. Yes, we love Jinny. Julian. Justin. (consequently all the same person for anyone who is not Jay). But . . . he didn't actually write this one! We're just combining minds right now to (hopefully) actually get some of his stories completed. And . . . he asked if I'd put my "awesome werewolf story" up where more people would read it. (Stupid overconfident, smug bastard . . . that we love.)

Slurpee: Ack. Wow. (Big hug!) Thanks. I hope this chapter was at least a little entertaining. But I just love this character . . . and she's pretty awesome when you put her and Davie together, so . . .

Cute Little Mongoose: Ty for the compliment. I hope you like this chapter, too. Even if it doesn't have any cute boyos all bunched together and kissing (yet). But . . . there's more fun with Davie next chapter.

Kitten: Thanks for the review. And here's some more. Woot. Cowgirl . . . she's crazy. But she . . . needs to be inserted somewhere. Pertinent to the story and all. . . . I still love her. I really do. Lol.