Available at midnight.
The loud, obnoxious speakers throughout the vicinity rattled my chest, temporarily deafening me each time a new track spun. After six years and two months, there were still perspiring palms and shattered nerves each and every night. But, contrary to those among me, neither was a result of treacherous, debilitating fear.
The thrill. Easily, it would explain the perfection of my posture, the projection of my voice, and the twinkle in my eye. It cruised through my body like the blood I needed to live and breathe. Medicinal, it soothed every ache I ever suffered and served as preventive care for future unwarranted, unwanted bullshit.
The lights, the chatter, the sound of heels clapping the floor to no end, the hustle, the bustle, the beauty, the breasts, the booties, the bare pussies, the smell of bargained body spray, and the bills that fell from the sky like snow in the winter. They all played vital roles in euphoria—the very pleasurable, very private state of mind I entered the second I crossed the threshold of Lust.
“Happy birthday to yoooooooooou!”
Puhhhh. The fire on top of the three and zero died instantly.
“Damn, are you even going to make a wish?” Sin questioned, dangling the lighter over the three in preparation to light both candles again.
“My wishes are granted daily. I don’t need candles to make them come true. Bigger tricks and bigger treats.”
“Sometimes, I hate you,” she groaned. “Here, cut the first piece.”
“Do the honors,” I suggested.
“You’re such a fucking party pooper. Are you at least going to eat a piece?”
“Before I go on stage and risk bloat? Not tonight, Sin.”
“See, this is why—”
“Don’t take my lack of enthusiasm as an insult. I appreciate all of this, you know it. This simply isn’t the time or place.”
I waved my hand over the decorations throughout the dressing room. Sin was most thoughtful of my girls, but she hadn’t put enough thought into her plans for the night. My work and personal life were two very different lives. I hadn’t been mistaken when I made it that way, either. There were reasons.
“The most important thing for me right now is center stage. Nothing else matters.”
“Not even your birthday?” She groaned, stomping her feet like a bratty teen.
“Not even my birthday. Feed the girls with the cake. I’m sure some of them are starving.”
“If they aren’t, it sure looks like it.”
“Alright. I’ll leave you alone and let you focus. You know where to find me if you need me.”
A simple nod was conjured before Sin walked off with the green cake in her hand. While the other girls raged over pink in grade school, I was drawn to the color green from the very start. It was my happy color and it still looked good in my designer bags all these years later.
After she disappeared, a breath of fresh air was released from my lungs. Once, twice, and a third time, I spritzed my chest with the YSL fragrance I’d chosen for the night.
Seductive strut, grip the pole, turn around, position the pole between my cheeks before bending over, grab my ankles… I rehearsed my routine for the fifth time in my head.
The loud, blaring alarm sounded as the lights throughout Lust lowered. Flashes of red circled the room where I finished polishing gloss on my lips a final time as well as every other room in Lust. I stood to my feet, glanced at the floor-length mirror once more, and set the tube of gloss on the vanity next to it.
“It’s time, baby. Go get that bag!” she yelled through the door.
On my way.
One foot in front of the other, the seven-inch, platform heels collided with wood underneath my feet. The custom Dianas were a gift and an investment I was relieved of. My predilection for the luxury dancewear wasn’t confidential. Every piece on my body was stamped with the designer’s imprint. Hence, the reason I’d chosen my latest item, straight from the showroom floor, to highlight the very special night.
“Secure your ones while you can, because they won’t be yours for long. We got the baddest motherfucker Berkeley has ever seen on the way to the stage. Y’all know what time it is. This is not a drill. Siren is on the way.
“Listen, don’t take this shit for granted. You’ll never, ever find anything like this one here, no matter where you go. She’s out of this world, and tonight, she’s yours. Get ready to blow a bag. It’s your girl’s birthday!”
“Fuck,” I hissed, wishing Bink could recant his statement.
My stomach knotted, a prescient warning that the information he’d just released wouldn’t be easily forgotten. Though I wasn’t entirely opposed to celebrating my birthday with my closest associates and staff, secrecy was a huge part of my strategy outside of Lust’s doors. Regular customers and possible clients who collectively created a willfully spending crowd shouldn’t have been privy to my date of birth, or anything else pertaining to me other than what they’d come for. A show.
“Consider this your lucky day! What are the odds of this fine-ass, hardworking ass woman being born on St. Patrick’s Day? God knew exactly what He was doing when He did that shit. Siren up next. Bills out. Hands to yourself, motherfuckers.”
“This nigga just can’t shut the fuck up.”
Through the private stage door that was attached to the suite belonging to me, I peered. Chaos was the only way to describe the frantic movement throughout Lust. With everyone scrambling to make change for their big bills and grab a seat closest to the stage, it resembled a madhouse.
My eyelids joined, top and bottom pressuring one another as I bowed my head slightly. Seductive strut, grip the pole, turn around, position the pole between my cheeks before bending over, grab my ankles. Over and over, I replayed the routine I’d practiced for two full hours before walking out of my door.
A perfectionist at heart, every small detail mattered as much as the next. There was no room for error or preventable mistakes. Perfecting my routine prior to my arrival allowed me to spend my time on stage seducing every person in the building rather than thinking of what I’d be doing next or making up things as I went. There were only six minutes from one performance to the next for the dancers of Lust. I didn’t have the privilege of a swift, improv stage act. Neither did I have a partner like everyone else.
For twelve minutes, Friday through Monday, every single set of eyes was on Siren. And for the life of me, I couldn’t let them down. Shit, I couldn’t let myself down because that was exactly what would happen if I gave them anything less than perfection when I hit the main stage. It was my only chance to conquer their wallets. Unlike my coworkers, the twelve minutes was all I had. Private dances and floor-sweeping weren’t on the list of things I offered.
While exotic dancing was considered grotesque by the majority, for me, it was the finest form of art. The swaying of our flawless frames, the connection between us and the music, the persuasiveness in every body roll and gesture, our core and upper body strength, the athleticism, the infusing of both of our personalities on stage, and the ability to express ourselves so eloquently, was as artistic as a Van Gogh in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
My performances were poetic, swaying everyone in the vicinity. Fingers snapped, bills rained, and applauses were given – whether from my glistening ass cheeks or the empty hands of the customers who’d spent every dollar in their pocket by the time the curtains closed.
My lids separated again. The red lights circled the building continuously as the alarm’s volume lowered slowly. The thick, velvet curtains raced to meet one another in the center of the wooden stage. Darkness replaced the flashing red lights.
With my right hand, I gripped the black handle of the door and pulled it toward me. One at a time, my heels conquered the set of steps leading to the main stage. Repetition was the reason everything around me was so familiar. But, although I’d climbed the same steps to access the same stage on the same four days every week, there wasn’t a single night that felt remotely close to another. Each time I pulled the door open and the uproar rang loud in my ears, I felt something different. Tonight wasn’t the exception.
“Here we motherfucking go! Quiet down, sit your asses down somewhere, and let’s gooooo! Siren, it’s your time to shine, baby. Give them hell!”
There was a complete, motivational silence that brought a smile to my face as my shoes clapped the floor with each step I took. At the very back of the stage, I tightened my garter belt and made sure the green two-piece I wore hit every curve it was intended to. The green, rhinestone fringe on my pumps matched the emerald on my body perfectly.
The 360-degree lace unit I wore was pulled into a high ponytail with two ringlets dangling in the front. Curls sprouted and dropped from the pony, brushing the back of my neck every time I moved my head. My face was painted to perfection. Amber, my artist, matched my stylist's energy, leaving no stone unturned on the flawless application.
The beat dropped, convincing my hips to do the same. As the curtains peeled backward, exposing the stage, I stretched one foot in front of the other.
Give them hell, I commanded of myself, reciting my favorite phrase inwardly.
My dark skin glistened under the lights. The finishing spray I’d dumped my favorite body glitter into for a final touch before every performance always left me feeling like that bitch. And, to be honest, there wasn’t a person in the world who could convince me otherwise.
Now, I don’t want to just buy you shit.
Though super deep in my mind,
Girl I wonder how lit you get.
The Dream’s voice erupted through the speakers. Without haste, I strutted down the stage, commanding the attention of the entire building.
Ready made promises
Don’t just wanna see how you riding it
We made you promises
But I want to be the one that makes you change your mind
Finally, I reached the freshly cleaned pole. Gripping it with my right hand, I used it for support to turn my body in the opposite direction. The revealing of my nearly bare ass in the thong that left little to the imagination summoned gasps from customers near and far.
Immediately, it began to storm. Bills fell from the air, flew from the right, slid from the left, and silently crashed onto the solid wood beneath me.
Now B said the best revenge is your paper
Well, I think the best revenge is human nature
You don’t need me to save ya
I maneuvered until the pole was perfectly positioned between both cheeks. Until my ass was completely parted by the cold metal, I stepped backward.
I see you covered with Paris, embroidered labels
Do me no favors
Just sit that thang down
Inch by inch, I lowered my upper half, bending my body until my breasts caressed my knees. And it wasn’t until that very moment that I locked both hands around my ankles.
Open it up and let me taste it
You say you don’t need me
I’m in need deep
Through my peripheral, I could see the bills that continued to rain down. Heightened senses were often a result of my time on stage, assisting me in a mission to decipher between the niggas with pockets that simply weren’t wide enough or deep enough to hold their paper and the men that were spending their monthly rent chasing a fantasy that would never be their reality.
The niggas with the bills falling out of their jeans, those were who piqued my interest because money like that never stopped flowing. There was always more where it came from. They had too much to ever know what to do with.
I’ll show you how to spend it. My logic ruled, never steering me wrong. It happened to be the reason I was never late on a bill, drove anything that caught my eye, vacationed on the best beaches, wore pricey pieces, and my bank account was nearing the seven-figure mark. Less than three hundred thousand away from my goal, I still had a lot of work to do. It wouldn’t be much longer, though. I could smell the paper I’d be swimming in.
The heavy flow, center of the stage, caught my attention. I made a mental note to make sure it was my first stop on my tour around the stage. Big spenders deserved a big thanks and a big show. Who better than me to give it to ’em? I boasted, circling the pole.
Leg up. Stretch it out on the pole completely. A full split, standing. Right cheek. Lift slightly, wrap right leg around the pole. Grip and climb. Climb. Climb. Climb. Climb.
Money was all on the damn floor. The stage was completely covered in bills. That’s right. Keep that shit coming. I wanted everyone to leave with empty pockets after my set. A unanimous showcase of lint, coins, and wallets turned inside out was the only way I’d exit the stage satisfied.
Grab the ceiling bars. Pull your legs upward until they're on the ceiling. Grab the pole. Defy gravity. Walk. Strut. Take a few more steps on the ceiling. Full body on the pole. DROP!
The spectators went ballistic. Watching me fall from the ceiling at an alarming speed was fascinating for most. Because I knew it got the crowd hype, I included it in 50 percent of my performances. They weren’t sure when to expect it or which nights I’d include it in my act. Whenever I did, though, it was sure to make me a few extra thousand dollars.
Split. Work those cheeks. Bring the legs in.
Riding the beat, I continued the flawless routine. In my head, I called out each and every move before it was made. Like a snake, I slithered toward the front of the stage where a few fellas were beckoning for my attention. Not with their hands or by catcalling, but with the excessive amount of money that left their hands and landed on the floor.
Flip over. Spread them. Let them peek at the pussy through your thong. Feet in the air. Leg behind your head. Pat it. Feet in the air. Make those cheeks bounce. Slap the floor. Roll over onto your knees. Hand in the air. Ride it. Ride it. Ride it. Look back at it. Spank it. Ride it.
Their skin was infused with large sums of melanin as if they’d been sunbathing their entire lives, too. Five of them lined the stage; two in their seats while the other three stood with the front of their pants against the stage. Large, untouched stacks of money were stationed in front of them. Easily, I counted twelve racks and that didn’t include what was already spent or in their hands.
Up on your feet. Drop it low. Okay, hands on your knees. Work your fucking body. Work that shit. Yes. Just like that.
The darkest of the bunch was most intriguing. His brown eyes and twisted expression were tantalizing, drawing me closer for inspection.
On your knees. Crawl. Eye contact. Up on your feet. Pop that shit. Put it in his face.
His caramel-colored eyes never left me and neither did his bank, as he slowly emptied his hands and allowed his money to fall onto my body. The sight of his upturned palms was repulsive. Not because they weren’t as beautiful as him, but because he’d run out of ones momentarily.
The drought didn’t last very long. He busied himself with the plastic that surrounded the mountain of money he stood behind. While he got his shit together, I gave him the space we both needed. I wiped my perspiring palms on the fabric of my fit as my temperature spiked. I could feel eyes all over my body, but it was his that split my nerve endings and warmed me to my core.
Get your head in the game, girl. He’s just another nigga.
But, was he? There was something especially peculiar about his knotted features and Teflon exterior. My curiosity was piqued, but money was calling me.
Stand up. Strut. Strut. Pole. Both hands. Bend over. Clap them cheeks. Don’t look back. Don’t look back. Shit, I’m looking back.
He was on me like bees on a honeycomb. Orbs firmly planted. This time, it wasn’t the littering of money he was doing that beckoned for me. Large, dark hands that made me wonder if his dick did them any justice, waved me over.
Make him wait, I decided, keeping my position.
Stand tall. Back against the pole. Slide down. All the way down. Now, back and forth. Back and forth. Eyes on the prize.
And, his were on me. All over me. The urgency that rested within them seconds prior had evaporated and was replaced with displeasure. A small chunk of his bottom lip disappeared behind his teeth as he attempted to conceal his disdain for my disobedience. He wanted me back. Not later, he wanted me now.
Finding pleasure in his discomfort, I figured I’d hang around a bit longer.
Stand. Turn around. Hand on the pole. Fuck. I’m sweating.
The very rare occasion caused me to blow out useless air as I turned around and faced the audience again. Being that climbing the pole was now impossible and I hadn’t brought a towel on stage with me, I was forced in his direction.
Strut. Strut. Strut. Drop it low. Lower. Put it right in his face. Just like that.
Up and down, I bounced, working one cheek and then the other. When I was close enough, the sternness of his expression led me to do something that was completely out of character and against several rules of mine that had remained intact over the years.
“Cheer up,” I suggested, still rocking my body to the beat of “Lemon Lean”.
“Why the fuck you leave?” The scratchiness of his rasp was spot on. I wasn’t sure what I imagined he’d sound like, but I was satisfied with the unique baritone that matched the unique face.
“You ran out of money. I tend to do that when it’s all gone.”
Conversation, on my end, was forbidden. Yet, I’d found myself saying more to the man dressed in all black with hints of red throughout his attire. His diamonds glistened in the darkness—on his neck, chest, both wrists, and in his twisted mouth. The mug he sported… candid.
“That’s impossible, Black. They ain’t got enough ones in this bitch to make change for my account,” he stated as a matter of fact. Had I not been accustomed to niggas with accounts larger than their ego and far too expansive for their short lifespan, I would’ve been impressed. However, I wasn’t. Bingo.
“Black?” I questioned, turning around and giving him exactly what he wanted: a better view.
“Yeah,” confidently, he responded, pausing the cash flow.
“Siren,” I corrected.
“Should’ve been Black. You rock that shit well.”
“You’re not too bad yourself. Less talking, more tossing,” I advised.
With a nod, he agreed. Slowly, he rested his hand on my chest. His long frame barely stretched as he leaned forward and spread the money down the center of mine. The bills served as a barrier between my skin and his while he slid his hand down my chest, each breast, my stomach, and then, finally, my navel. By the time his bare hands reached my pussy, his spread had ended.
Shiiiiit. His fingers lingered as he continued lowering them on my body until they fell onto the stage.
“And, no touching.”
Sucking his teeth, he held his hands up in surrender. A smile crossed my face. He was insanely theatrical and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it funny. For the first time since spotting him, his contorted features softened, eventually lifting to uncover the most God-forsaken thing I’d ever seen—his smile.
I swallowed the hump of dry air in my throat and re-wet my mouth twice to fix the damage it had done. Like a pack of studs preparing for the Kentucky Derby, my heart galloped. In an attempt to be freed from its stable, the vital organ and all the vessels that accompanied it, collided with my chest cavity over and over again.
Desperate to escape the trance his gold, diamond-encrusted teeth, glorious smile, tall stature, and black skin had me in, I flipped over until I was on my knees and in front of another stack of money, waiting to be released from someone in his circle.
And, as if on cue, the music halted. In no hurry, I stood to my feet and walked toward the back of the stage where my towel was. I desperately needed to wipe my moist palms and pat away the dewiness of my face that I felt beginning to sprout.
“I hope you motherfucking ready. It’s time to turn this bitch up. Let’s go, SIREN!” Bink yelled over the speakers. “Let’s gooooooo!”
Red lights and the blaring siren began simultaneously. As the beat to my next song dropped, my adrenaline spiked. The second song of my set was always sure to get me hyped and testing out the durability of the pole I’d been sliding down for years.
When my hands were completely dry, I tossed the towel to the ground. One by one, I put a foot in front of the other, swaying my body simultaneously. My movements were much faster and slightly more dramatic than they were in the first three minutes of my performance.
Feeling every music note infused in the track, I gripped the pole with my right hand and continued to put one foot in front of the other, making an entire circle. Jeezy’s voice ignited a flame within me I could hardly contain. Enthusiasm filled me to the brim.
Anybody seen my drink?
His monologue played in the background.
Oh, we going all night tonight.
He continued as I did, still making circles around the pole until, eventually, I began to climb it. By the end of his introduction, I was halfway up. And when the actual beat finally dropped, so did I.
I’m talking breakin’ down a brick yeah
Hit a lick yeah
In love with the bitch
But she still a trick yeah
“And is,” I said aloud each time that part played.
The ass sitting right yeah
I wanna bite yeah
I can hit it right yeah
All night yeah
There wasn’t a person alive who could tell me he wasn’t referring to me when he made the song. We’d crossed paths on weekends when he visited Channing and stopped through Lust, but never had any personal encounters. However, he’d seen exactly what Siren was capable of and I was certain he’d made that song for me. Maybe not literally, but basically.
Gotta let them niggas know boy, you got that dough, boy
Fuck what you heard, you ain’t nothin’ to hold boy
Before I seen them O’s boy, I was po’boy
With my hands gripping the pole, I spread my legs in the air and began gyrating. The movement of my hips caused my legs and ass to quake. Ready to climb even higher, I pulled it all together and began my ascend.
Drop the top in the hood, yeah, I'm talkin' dope boy
Jeezy reminded them of his lifestyle before becoming a rapper while reminding them, simultaneously, exactly what type of woman I was and the type of niggas I liked. His type. Niggas with a bag and a past.
When I reached the ceiling, I grabbed hold of the bars used to support our weight and began to swing. At the very same time, employed one cheek at a time before stretching my legs completely out and splitting on the ceiling. I could see the plethora of dollars as they were tossed onto the stage. I never loosened my grip on the bars.
That was where I remained, working my entire body, until I heard the voice of the featured artist on the track. My stomach curled as I gripped the pole and slid down. My feet touched the floor just as soon as my hand began clapping. After a few claps, I circled my right hand in the air and waited for the DJ to stop the track.
“Cut that shit!” I screamed at Bink once there was pure silence.
He knew not to allow Gunna’s part to play out on my set. I hated to hear his voice in the song. Without a doubt, Jeezy should’ve carried the entire record alone or placed someone on the end who could match his energy and his hustle. Gunna completely ruined the song, in my opinion. Him and the auto-tune he used to record his verse.
Pour it up.
Pour it up.
Rihanna’s voice replaced Gunna’s. Immediately, I was back in my groove, climbing the pole until I reached the center. There was where I spread my legs and managed to flip my body upside down. It wasn’t until her song played out that I officially ended my pole set.
Back on the wood, I lowered my body as another beat dropped. Trina was so inspirational to me and had always been. I loved everything about her aesthetic.
Every song she’d ever made that described her experiences with men, checking their pockets, spending their money, and going about her business, felt like an anthem to me. Each time I could include one of her songs in my set when I was mapping out my playlist, I did. There wasn’t a missed opportunity because my girl just knew.
You’re the baddest bitch I ever seen
Looking like a ghetto queen
I could feel over a hundred sets of eyes on me. But there was only one set that bore holes into me. As I reached behind my back and unsnapped the emerald-colored top, I tried my damnedest not to give into my curiosity. But before my triple D breasts were revealed, I couldn’t help myself.
I turned in his direction, matching his gaze. When I reached up and untied the neck string that single-handedly held my top in place, his bottom lip disappeared inside of his mouth.
Miss Trina, Z3 Beamer
Open up my legs put your head between ’em
Slowly, it fell to the floor, leaving me exposed to the crowd. Though I didn’t undress completely on stage, my top always came off before ending my set. I kept my most valued treasure locked away behind my thong during performances, but I loved showing off my perfectly pebbled nipples.
Their perkiness was baffling for most at my age, but without children and good genetics, it was inevitable for me. They were my pride and joy. Even when I wasn’t on stage, I was trying to find a way to allow them to kiss the sun. Resting on nude beaches was my favorite method.
Completely transfixed on the bars that pierced the center of my nipples, the dark, handsome fella licked his black lips with his thick, monstrous tongue. Immediately, everything around him dissipated. Tunnel vision kept my eyes fixated on him. My one-tracked mind allowed me to think of nothing but him.
Like a fish in pursuit of bait, I worked my entire body to the bone until I reached center stage, where he waited impatiently. His rigidness became a source of frustration. I watched as he adjusted himself in his jeans while pulling in his bottom lip again.
The seat of my thong was wringing wet. To show him the damage he’d done, I laid flat on my back and raised my left leg above my head. The creaminess of my center spilled out and onto my thighs. At the sight of it, more dollars from his mountain-high stacks littered the stage.
His aura was intoxicating, giving the cologne he wore a run for its money. Together, they double-teamed me, knocking me square on my face and off my game. When I felt my eyelids seal, I knew my consumption was no longer a fantasy, but factual.
His long, wide tongue flattened to reach the edges of my fat pussy as I closed my eyes. Big hands and calloused fingers caressed the rings in each of my nipples. Rapidly, I thrust my center to match the strokes of his tongue. The desperation could be heard in my whimpers. I wanted, badly, to reach my climax so I could climb him like the tree he was. Once I was at the top, I’d slide down his trunk slowly and cautiously, aware that it was no easy task.
“Give it up for my girl, Siren.”
I’d blacked out, completely. I never heard the final song commence or end. When I opened my eyes, I was still front and center of the stage and my thighs were as wet as my pussy. Before standing to my feet, I didn’t miss the sinister grin on Mr. Tall, Dark, and Loaded’s face. With as much of my pride as I could muster, I grabbed my bra and headed toward the door I’d come out of while the clean-up crew gathered my money to bring directly to my dressing room.
My knees weakened with each step I made, threatening to give up on me at any second. I picked up the pace, slightly, but it was taking everything within me not to make a run for it. If I didn’t feel as if my knees would give out, then I would’ve struck out running.
“Fuck!” I gasped when I reached the other side of the door.
My heart pounded. I could feel it against the hand that rested on my chest. In all the years I’d graced the stage of Lust, I’d never felt so… naked. Even with my bra feet away from me on the floor each performance, I still felt fully clothed. But, tonight, even nudity was a far cry from my sentiments.
Skinned. Skinless. Transparent. Translucent.
What the fuck was that? I asked, grabbing my forehead to pat away the sweat that lined it. Who the fuck is he? Berkeley was large, but after years of working in the entertainment business, I could name almost all the high rollers in the city, much like a few of the men in his party.
The Domino brothers. I’d seen them around a few times. Some of them, at least. I wasn’t sure how many of them there were. But, him, I’d never seen him around. Where the fuck did he come from? The questions circled in my head while I tried gathering myself. Has to be one of the brothers I’ve never encountered.
I couldn’t shake that smirk on his face as I left the stage after being gutted by that smile, dark skin, and commanding presence.
The sound of knuckles hitting the door pulled me from my thoughts and into the moment.
“It’s your bag!” the familiar voice yelled.
“Bring it in, Carlos,” I instructed.
With his eyes closed, Carlos stepped into my private quarters carrying two heavy-duty trash bags. The thirteen-gallon bags were filled to the brim with bills.
“I have on clothes. Bottoms, at least.”
His eyes popped open, instantly, causing me to shake my head.
“Even if you don’t like pussy, you can act like it sometimes.”
“Honey, them things look weird and I’ve smelled enough to know I want no parts of that.”
“But an asshole looks… and smells better?” I chortled. “I have one of those, too, and I’m calling bull–shit.” I was sure to emphasize the last word of the compound.
“You know, you might be right.”
“Oh, I know I am. Here.”
I dug into one of the bags and grabbed a fist full of money. When I shoved it in his direction, he graciously accepted it.
“Thanks, Siren. I appreciate you, girl.”
“Any time, Carlos. Now, close the door on your way out.”
“But, wait, there’s someone out there asking for you,” he informed me.
“I don’t do private dances or work the floor. I’m sure you told them that, right?”
With a raised eyebrow and creased forehead skin, I waited for his response.
“Yes, but he isn’t the type to take no for an answer, it seems.”
“Then tell him hell no.”
“Siren,” he whined, tilting a head.
“What?” My eyes shifted.
“Tall. Dark. Handsome. Looks like he can knock the dust off that pussy.”
“I don’t have dust on my pussy.” I chuckled.
“Hmmm. I’m a lot of things, but I’m no fool.”
“According to the dancers at Lust, I’m a hoe, right?”
“Hating ain’t healthy and they all know it. Now, I’m not saying you’re selling it, but I know there are very few men in Berkeley that can afford it. If you know what I’m saying. That limits your resources, which leaves you high and dry. Don’t try to play me, girl. I know you be keeping that thing to yourself.”
“You know nothing.” Smacking my lips, I waved him off. “Tell him hell no!”
There was only one person in mind Carlos could be talking about and I wanted no part of him. Whatever happened between us on stage was the beginning and end. He’d experienced Lust and he’d experienced Siren up close and personal. Now, it was time to pack it up and take his ass home to his dog, girl, children, or whatever he had waiting.
“Alright, babe. Thanks for the dollars.”
He exited the room, leaving me with the bags full of cash. I carried them over to my counting area and contemplated having my shower prior to tallying the numbers, but I decided against it. Instead, I replaced the top of my two-piece with a cropped white shirt that stopped just beneath my breasts. The thong, I traded for a pair of shorts that barely covered anything. For now, they’d have to work. Before stepping out of the door, I would shower before putting on something a bit more pleasant.
“Babe,” Carlos called from the other side of the door before storming in.
“Yes?” I whipped my head around to meet his gaze.
“It didn’t work. He said he’s willing to pay whatever.”
“Tell him to save it for the next time he comes. I’ll be here, on stage. Same time.”
“Okaaaaay.” Carlos sighed, turning around and heading back out of the door.
I emptied the first bag on the table and began separating the money into large stacks that would eventually be run through the money counter. And, for accuracy, I’d weigh it all once I’d put it through the counter.
“I’m starting to feel like a messenger,” Carlos breathed.
“I hope you’re making him pay for your services.”
“He says—” The exhausted gentleman began, but I stopped him before he could utter another word.
“I really don’t give a fuck what he said, but to save you some time and energy, I’ll go make it clear myself.”
Still in my emerald pumps, I stood to my feet and headed out of the door.
“Stay here and watch my paper. If you touch anything, it’ll be the last time you see your fingers.”
“Oh, she is fierce, honey.”
“Just don’t touch anything.”
“I’m a lot of things, but a thief isn’t one of them,” he assured me.
“Good, because I’d hate to have to dismember you. Be right back.”
I exited my suite with a chip on my shoulder. With perfect posture and a high chin, I strutted through Lust as if I was still working the stage. Since the first year I’d performed at Lust, I hadn’t stepped foot on the floor. It was nostalgic. Beginnings, I thought as I brushed shoulders with the men and women who tipped me well.
It was humbling, but unfortunately, I wasn’t the humble type. I had every reason to flaunt my shit and I did every chance I was able. No stranger to hard work, I’d earned every ounce of confidence I exuded.
At the realization of my presence, the crowd parted to allow me space to move freely. I doubted any of them could remember a time they’d seen me among the audience. Weekend after weekend, it was all the same. Stage performances only.
My feet didn’t stop moving, not until the parted sea of clubgoers cleared a path that stretched and stretched until it finally ended with him. It was as if the universe was leading me straight to the grimacing hunk of everything I loved without consulting with me first. Out of all the directions the path could’ve led, it was in his direction that it ended.
And once he noticed, his eyes found me and never left me. I rummaged through the rubbish to find a silver lining in the situation, but once my body began to overheat, I knew there wasn’t one. Still, I managed to pull up my big girl thong and continue on the path that was set for me—literally and figuratively.
His haughtiness was enchanting, luring me to him straight away. And when I finally reached him, he stood. Tall like a light pole with three red lights and a stop sign attached for extra precaution, he stood back on his legs until they locked.
Oh fuck. I caved inside. His slightly bowed legs were as captivating as his smile. There was just something about men with that stance that drenched me. They oozed a level of sexy that was unmatched by anything or anyone else.
“Black,” he said, leaning down near my ear. “Make an exception.”
I exhaled, closing my eyes to gather myself. Blood rushed through my body at a rapid pace, causing me to tingle all over. Who is this nigga? I desperately wanted to know. Needed to know.
His voice was as deep as it was smooth. It reached my pussy and stroked my clit without ever touching it, somehow. I fought to find the words I’d come to say, but nothing came to mind.
“We can go somewhere a little more… private.”
Snapping back in an instant, I finally released a breath and stepped back to put some distance between us. He was far too close and far too inebriating. I needed to sober up, and the only way was to get as far away from him as possible.
“I don’t do privates, the floor, nothing. What you saw on stage is everything you’ll ever see. Please stop sending the staff back. You’re wasting all of our time. Now, if that’s all, I’m going to resume business as usual before I was interrupted.”
I spun on my heels, but before I could take even the first step, I felt his fingers around my waist, turning me in his direction again.
“Don’t walk off. I’m not done talking to you yet.”
“First, get your hands off me. Second, time is money and you’ve already wasted a few minutes of mine.”
“You talk a lot of shit.” He chuckled, face softening again.
“What do you want?” I breathed out, seemingly exhausted with his antics, though I was thoroughly enjoying each second of his bullshit.
“To spend some time alone with you.”
“Yeah, aight. What’s your name?”
“Your name,” he repeated.
“Aight. Aight,” he grunted with a nod. “I hear it’s your birthday.”
Bink. I cringed, wanting to reach behind the booth and snap his neck. The Black King before me snapped his fingers, then waved his index finger in my direction. On cue, one of the niggas in attendance with him appeared beside him. Though my eyes never left his, I could see what was happening around us. I didn’t miss the neatly stacked, shrink-wrapped bills that he’d been handed. It was far too tall and smelled way too good to go unnoticed.
“I guess you can consider yourself lucky to have encountered me tonight,” he said, offering me the money he’d just been handed. “Happy fucking birthday, Black.”
“Wow. Big shit,” I teased, accepting it with a bland expression to match my sarcasm.
“Not at all.”
“You not the first nigga,” I began.
“But I will be the last,” he said with so much confidence and conviction, I almost believed him.
“Do yourself a favor and cut your losses right now. Chasing me will leave you with plenty.”
I didn’t give him a chance to respond. Instead, I turned away. This time, he allowed me to walk away without stopping me. To be honest, I wasn’t so happy about it. I was anticipating his displeasure with the choice I’d made to return to my respective corner of the club, but he didn’t voice it or act on it, even if there was any.
Back in the comfort of solitude, I locked myself inside my suite so I wouldn’t be bothered for the duration of my stay. By the door where my slippers were, I peeled off my heels and slid into them instead. It wasn’t until I made it to the counting station with the money he’d given me still in my hand that it all sank in.
“Did this nigga really just hand me ten stacks after spending just that much on me while on stage?”
There was no need to count what was already counted for me. Each band that was supposed to carry one hundred dollars only had ninety-eight. There was a two-dollar fee for making change in Lust. Without counting it, I knew there was $9,800 shrink-wrapped.
Maybe it was a lucky night. Happy fucking birthday to me.
“Seriously, Kleu?” MiMi fussed.
“You’re getting old on me. I’m trying to hit the city and you’re talking about laying down? It’s your birthday. What do you mean, you’re going to relax? And what the hell is a staycation?”
“I booked a room for the next three days. For once, I want silence. I don’t want to even hear myself think if that’s possible. Every year, it’s the same thing. I’m out, on a plane, in another country, just doing so much. This time, I want to chill and be alone. I’m not leaving. It’s room service every day. I’m turning my phone on silent and zoning out.”
I turned into the parking lot of Mansion, the best spot in downtown Berkeley to stay when you didn’t have a budget and had money to spare. The engine of my car echoed underneath the roundabout that was reserved for guests.
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m not asking you to. I just pulled up to Mansion. If I told you I’d call you back, then I’d be lying. I fully intend on silencing all devices and relaxing. I have an early spa appointment. The ladies are coming to my room to service me and I need to rest up.”
“Alright,” she sighed. “I’ll talk to you in three fucking days, I guess.”
“Maybe not three, but at least two.”
I cackled as I pulled the phone from my ear, knowing she’d already ended the call without a doubt. Just as I tucked it inside my purse, the valet attendant tapped the window. Peeved at the lack of consideration, I lowered the window to see what he was attempting to say to me.
“Nice car! Wish you’d come five minutes earlier so I could’ve checked it out. I’m on my way home now. This ride is sick.”
“Sheesh. How fast does it go?”
“Goodnight,” I repeated, rolling the window up.
It was obvious he wanted nothing more than to talk, which I wasn’t interested in. I barely even wanted to hear my own voice over the next few days.
At the press of a button, the doors lifted and allowed me to step out. I stretched my long, five-eleven frame once my feet hit the pavement. As I straightened my spine and the rest of my body completely, another attendant appeared. My mouth widened with a yawn, causing my eyes to water.
I’m exhausted, I admitted. Is this what thirty is giving? Take me back to twenty-nine.
“Good evening, ma’am. Are you checking in?” he asked, visibly swallowing whatever was at the back of his throat.
His red hair and freckled face were adorable. Some teenage girl or young adult was probably happy to tell everyone he was her man. With a face as handsome as his, I wouldn’t blame them.
“I’ve already checked in, virtually. Top Floor Three,” I revealed.
“Top Floor?” He whistled. “Alrighty, then, Mrs. Carmichael?” He twiddled with the tablet in his hands and found my reservation.
“Okay. I got it. Keys in the vehicle?”
“Any bags you need us to take up for you?”
I took a good look at the oversized duffle bag that was filled with the money I’d earned for the night and shook my head.
“No. I should be fine.”
Beside it was a black overnight bag that had a few pieces and some personal items for my stay. I had every intention to lounge in my robe for the next few days, but I bought a few things in case I did need to slip out of the room for a second.
“I’ll just take the two I have up myself.”
Because the height of my car was such a hassle for people with long legs like mine, I was forced to bend almost all the way over to retrieve the bags from the front seat. I could feel the valet attendant staring daggers at me. Nothing was free, not even views, and I wanted him to know that.
“That’s it?” he asked when I’d secured the bags.
“Yes, and my plan was to tip you, but nothing about me is free, not even that gaze of yours.”
“I-I, uh.” He chuckled. “My fault.”
“It is your fault. Now you’re a day short of tips from me. Let’s try again tomorrow or when it’s time for me to check out,” I advised him.
With a nod, he agreed. “Bet.”
In the biker shorts, Chanel sneakers, and top to match them, I headed inside of Mansion with a bag on each shoulder. Though there was a separate entrance for those accessing Top Floors, the final five floors of the tallest hotel building in Berkeley that were ridiculously priced and highly sought after, the lobby was too beautiful to pass up the chance of strolling through.
Besides, though I was ready for rest, I was always on the prowl. I’d connected with the best of my sugars in the lobby of Mansion. It was the main reason I didn’t mind the hefty price tag to stay. I’d recoup every dime I spent and much more if I walked out of the door with at least one new number in my business phone. The lobby bar was where they hung out for the most part.
It was fairly late and everyone was in bed. There wasn’t a person in sight, other than the clerks and staff. I peddled through the expansive, quiet space in pursuit of the elevators, promising to come down at least twice before my stay was up – even if only for a few minutes. Just as I rounded the corner where the elevators were, one pinged.
Great! I cheered instantly. Because the hotel had so many floors, catching an elevator was like finding gold. They always took a while unless you utilized the private entrance. I picked up the pace so I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to catch a ride up to my floor.
Just as the doors were closing, I managed to slide every one of my two hundred and fifteen pounds inside. Sighing, I slammed my back against the glass frame and dug into the side of my purse for my phone. Once I unlocked it, I pulled up my digital keycard. With a simple scan, I was able to punch the button for Top Floor Three.
“Did I sponsor that?” the very peculiar voice asked, referring to the room I was headed to and forcing every inch of my body to freeze.
“Not Black, suddenly ain’t got shit to say,” he tittered, making every juice in my pussy drain into my panties.
God, why do you keep sitting this nigga in my path? I questioned the Man upstairs, though I was taught not to. I just needed clarification so I could understand why this man kept being handed to me on a platinum platter.
Mobile once more, I lifted my head and crossed my arms at my chest. The bags on both of them swayed in the process. Just as I remembered him, the handsome fella stood in the corner of the elevator with his back against the glass.
Cautious, I noted.
“I didn’t take you for the stalker type.”
“Baby, I don’t stalk shit but my money.”
“So you’re telling me this is coincidental?” I scoffed.
“I ain’t told you shit yet, but since you ask, I’d tell you it's fate or whatever the fuck they call it.”
“You hard of hearing?” he asked seriously.
“I hear just fine and I heard exactly what you said.”
With a shake of the head, I tried to rid myself of whatever was creeping up on me. The feeling was unfamiliar and unwelcomed, to say the least.
“I’m Lawe,” he introduced himself, taking a few steps forward and in my direction.
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