Lover Undercover
Author:Samanthe Beck

chapter Six

Customers packed Deuces, making Thursday feel more like a Saturday. Between two twenty-first birthday parties, a bachelor party, and a bunch of guys in software sales out to blow their bonuses, Kylie barely had time to miss Trevor—provided scanning the crowd for his entirely too attractive face every ten minutes didn’t count as missing him. For some stupid reason, she found herself hoping he’d show up. God, she was an idiot.

The thought repeated in her head like a mantra as she made her way back to the dressing room after her second featured dance. You’re an idiot…an idiot…an idiot. Absently, she pulled tips from her garter belt and white satin thong.

The door flew open. Ginger breezed in. “Christ, Snowflake, you’re an idiot,” she said and tossed something at her.

Kylie caught the item and frowned. It was the gossamer baby-doll top that went with the thong and completed her “naughty virgin” outfit. She’d forgotten to wait by the stage for the runner to bring her discarded clothes.

“Oh. Thanks.”

Ginger braced a hip against the vanity counter, crossed her arms in front of her chest, and met Kylie’s gaze in the mirror. “What’s with you? You haven’t been yourself lately.”

Kylie dropped her eyes and shrugged her top on, then focused on fastening the tiny snap between her breasts. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but these last few times we’ve worked together you’ve been strangely nice. You say ‘hi.’ You say ‘bye.’ You even say ‘thank you.’ What’s happened to the coldhearted ice queen we used to know?”

“Nothing happened. I’m working on my manners. No big deal.”

Ginger held up her hands. “Fine, fine. Forget I asked. But for what it’s worth, the girls and I thought what happened to you a few weeks ago—when Carlton pulled you offstage—was terrible. We went to Vern and told him to fire Ramon’s worthless ass. He didn’t, naturally, because Ramon is one of the owner’s nephews, but we tried. Then last Saturday, finding Carlton by the Dumpster? Awful. Like a nightmare. We figure you’ve had a pretty tough patch lately. So, if there’s anything we can do to make things easier, just let us know, okay?”

“Thanks, Ginger.” Kylie closed the lockbox and turned around. “I’m good, honest. Also, you don’t need to worry about Ramon anymore. I think the police took him into custody earlier this week, for killing Carlton and possibly another customer.”

Ginger’s perfectly arched brows lifted. “Are you sure? Last night he was—”

Before the redhead could finish, Vern pushed through the door and pointed at them. “Let’s move it, ladies. Ginger, you’re giving the birthday boy at table five a lap dance. Now,” he added, and stared until she hustled out of the room. The finger switched to Kylie. “You’ve got a private dance in VIP room two. Benny’s bouncing. If the private doesn’t extend, come see me. We’re busy, so I may be able to squeeze another client in before we call it a night.”

“Great,” she said to Vern’s departing back, then stuffed her tip box into her locker and slammed the door. On her way to the room, she could barely concentrate on the private dance. She was too fixated on Ginger’s unfinished sentence. Last night he was…what?

Still puzzling the words, she slipped into the VIP room. The lights were low. Smooth, smoky jazz simmered from the sound system, and the telltale gleam of a polished shoe told her Benny already occupied his corner. Inhaling a deep breath, she turned to the client chair—and stopped dead in her tracks.

The emotions flitting across Stacy’s face were worth the price of admission. Trevor read surprise, followed by a hint of unguarded pleasure, overrun almost immediately by concern, and then suspicion.

Her brows knitted and her lips formed a small frown. He imagined she thought it a stern expression, and wondered what she’d think if she knew it gave him an instant hard-on.

“Trevor, what are you doing here?”

“Would you believe I came to get a dance?”

She shook her head. “Ramon?” She said the name softly, mindful of their audience.

Now it was his turn to shake his head. He watched apprehension steal into her face and found it less of a turn-on than the stern expression. Seeing no reason to include Benny in the conversation, and every reason to bring her closer, he tapped his knees. “Sit down. I’ll tell you all about it.”

Might have been then she noticed the bottle of vodka on the side table, two-thirds full, along with two shot glasses, one full, one already empty. Considering her history with over-served clients, he wondered if the bottle worried her. Then her anxious eyes flicked to his, and damn if she wasn’t worried for him.

She hustled her sexy little self over until she could get in his face. He was having some difficulty keeping his eyes on hers—they kept straying down to where her soft, perfectly uptilted breasts challenged the confines of a lacy scrap of a top. The combination of blush-pink skin and frothy white lingerie had him imagining a bride on her wedding night, shy but eager to please. Too bad he couldn’t put the blame entirely on her outfit. Whether he liked it or not, a wall had come down when he kissed her in the interrogation room. They’d simply been a man and a woman, not a detective and a witness.

He was having a hell of a time putting the wall back.

“When you said you’d be picking Ramon up for questioning, I thought this was all over. You wouldn’t be around anymore. What happened?”

Hands at her waist, he settled her on his lap. She was either too upset or too distracted to object to him taking the initiative. Good thing, because the wedding night fantasy definitely worked for him.

“Ian questioned Ramon. Turns out he had a decent alibi for the night Carlton was murdered.”

“But how ironclad could it be? Carlton never set foot inside Deuces Friday night, so there’s no telling when he showed up in the parking lot. Didn’t you say the exact time of death was hard to pinpoint?

Trevor shook his head. “Hard to pinpoint, yes. Not hard to ballpark. Although Carlton’s whereabouts Friday night are still in question, we know he died exactly where you found him. There’s no blood trail or other evidence suggesting someone killed him and dumped him there. One of the barbacks at Deuces took trash to the Dumpster around 1:00 a.m. and there was no sign of Long at that time. You called 911 at two thirty. He died sometime during that hour-and-a-half window. Ramon went to a club downtown on Friday evening with his cousin and stayed from 10:00 p.m. until just after one thirty. Cocktail waitress at the place remembers him well enough because he put the moves on her all night. After they left, he drove his cousin home and then went straight home to bed.”

“He could be lying about where they went afterward.”

Trevor nodded. “Yeah, but at this point, with no eyewitness, no physical evidence, no big inconsistencies in Ramon’s story, and not a hell of a lot of opportunity, we don’t have enough to charge him.”

“So, is he in the clear then?”

“We’re watching him, and digging deeper into his background. Ramon could be involved, he’s still got motive, but we’re a long way from ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’”

Her shoulders slumped as she blew out a nervous breath. “Well, shoot. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want the man spending time behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s just…I’d convinced myself Ramon was the killer. I was so relieved to consider it over.”

He ran a hand along her back, in what he’d intended as a consoling gesture. The slide of lace over skin turned it into something else. He dropped his hand. “I understand. But we’re still pursuing all leads, and we’re not exactly starting from scratch. All the connections we made earlier are still valid.”

The comment pulled her nervous gaze back to his face. “The earlier connections? You don’t mean—?”

“I do. Deuces still connects Long and Montenegro, and just a bit more tightly, their preference for you. Still more tightly, their bad behavior, related to you, almost immediately before they were murdered. And now, thanks to you, we know there’s even one more link.”

“Another link? I don’t understand.”

“You told us Carlton was drunk the night he pulled you offstage. Out of character for him, but his credit card receipt confirms he bought a bottle of vodka that night. Alex always paid cash, which is why the original investigators never linked him to the club in the first place, but Vern says he got a buzz going pretty much every time he visited. He started and stuck with vodka most nights, including his final one. We’re looking very hard at all the regular customers, all the employees, over a twelve-month time frame. But that kind of digging takes time, so, meanwhile”—he gestured to the vodka and smiled up at her—“I’m going to order a lot of vodka, buy a lot of private dances, and you’re going to treat me like you treat your best clients.”

“No.” She shook her head and attempted to retreat. “I can’t do this anymore.”

He simply leaned in, eliminating the space she’d tried to create. If the muscle in the corner happened to glance over, they looked cozy and rule-abiding. He waited until she stilled and focused on him again.

It took a few seconds. Finally, she raised her eyes to his and said, “What you’re doing is not an investigation. It’s not even a plan. It’s suicide.” Her adorable chin trembled and sent a funny contraction straight through his heart. “You’re crazy if you think I’m just going to stand by and let put yourself squarely in a killer’s sights.”

She was worried for him. A wave of tenderness washed over him, startling him almost as much as her concern. “That’s exactly where you are, Stacy. I thought you could use some company.”

“Think again,” she shot back and struggled against him. “I’m telling Vern I won’t dance for you anymore.”

“No, you’re not.” He flexed his quads and scooted her forward in his lap. Her thighs draped over his, her plush breasts welled against his chest. The coconut-vanilla scent of her made his senses swim. Following a wayward impulse, he leaned close and found her ear with his lips, enjoyed a flare of satisfaction when she inhaled swiftly. “I’m not some clueless client unknowingly painting a target on his skull. I know how to handle myself. I’ve got training, and backup. Can you say the same about the next guy who comes along?”

“What if there is no ‘next guy’?” Her words puffed over his cheek. “What if I quit?”

“Then, most likely, we never find the person who killed Carlton and Alex. No justice for those dead men. I could live with that, Stacy, but I suspect someone this interested in you won’t be shaken off so easily. If you take Deuces out of the mix, you’re the only one left in his sights. Who knows what he does then? I’m not sure I can live with that.”

She jerked back and stared at him accusingly. “You’re trying to scare me.”

“I’m trying to educate you. You’re in a precarious position, and while you may not like it, you’re staring at your best option for getting out unscathed.”

Blinking rapidly, she said, “There’s got to be some other way.”

“There’s not.” His voice was firmer than he intended, but he wanted to wipe the denial off her face. “Now, if we’re done discussing all the unavailable options, hop on up and give me the Alex Montenegro special.”

She eyed him another long moment, then slipped off his lap. “Alex’s routine,” she said briskly. “That’s what you want?”

Her apparent calm didn’t fool him. Temper sparked in her eyes, telling him as clearly as words she didn’t appreciate the trap he had her in. “It seems like the next logical move.” Picking up the vodka, he poured a shot. “Like a drink first?”

“No. I don’t drink while I’m working.” Her voice held more ice than the chilled bottle.

“Right.” Not giving an inch, not tough little Stacy. He downed the shot. “So you said the night we met. Nice to know some things never change.”

“Things have changed. Buckle up, Trevor.”

Thanks to her recent stint at Stacy University, Kylie knew exactly what the Alex Montenegro special involved.

Alex was an ass man. Shake mine in front of him, and I practically hypnotized the guy. All I had to do was sway around a bit and, bam! I earned a big tip—no pun intended.

The whole routine sounded ridiculous to Kylie, but Stacy swore it wasn’t just Alex who got off on the number. This particular dance brought grown men to their knees. At the moment, the idea of bringing Mr. I-Know-How-to-Handle-Myself down a notch or two offered perverse pleasure.

After queuing the music to what Stacy called the soft-porn playlist, with its funky, percussion-heavy tracks and breathy, mostly unintelligible lyrics, she walked over and stood in front of Trevor’s chair, facing away from him. She planted her three-inch-high white satin slides hip-distance apart. Their eyes met in the mirror for a few seconds of eternity while she waited for the music to start. When the first beat pumped out, she did a long, slow bend, all the way down, and wrapped her hands around her ankles. To her surprise, Trevor snapped upright in his chair. She heard his sharp inhale, followed by a low, unguarded, “Oh, Christ.”

A frisson of something new and highly thrilling shimmered through her. Power. An odd thing to find while bent over, grabbing her ankles, but there it was. One look at his face confirmed it—he was her slave.

The choreography ensured he stayed enslaved. While she danced and stripped down to her thong, Kylie watched him in the mirror. His hot gaze seared up her calves, her thighs. She felt it lick her breasts, simmer over her shoulders, and sizzle along the curve of her spine. But always, always the burning intensity returned to her hips.

She became acutely aware of the thong—the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it triangle of white fabric riding the very base of her spine, the thin tongue extending from the point and disappearing between her buttocks. Although she didn’t have his view, she knew certain moves gave him glimpses of the lace’s elusive path. A few offered him peeks at the whole trail, to the untouched hideaway shielded behind another triangle of satin—a very wet triangle. She fervently hoped he couldn’t see any telltale signs of her body’s reaction to him.

She should have been embarrassed by the way being so exposed to him affected her. But one look at his glazed, rapt expression and confidence surged, pushing aside humiliation. Still facing front, she twisted at the waist, flipped her hair over her shoulder, and stared back at him. “I’ve been a bad girl,” she cooed in a decent imitation of Stacy’s deliberately provocative purr.

“What?” When those dark, captivating eyes lifted helplessly to hers, she brought her palm down on her left buttock with a quick, loud slap.

“Oh God,” he said, and his eyes dropped to the cheek where a pink handprint formed.

“You like bad girls?”

“Huh?” he grunted, his eyes still glued to her ass.

Following Stacy’s itinerary, she inched backward until she straddled him, rested her hands on his knees, and slowly lowered her hips so her backside brushed along his abs—very tight abs. Something thick and hard rose up to greet her. She bit her lip to stifle the shock and, yes, arousal, and…started to improvise. Bracing her weight on her hands, she carefully adjusted until the heavy ridge rode the shallow valley between her cheeks. Then she arched her back and clenched her butt, trapping him in a little hug.

His hands flew to her waist and gripped like a drowning man clinging to a lifeline. She couldn’t see his face in the mirror, but felt his forehead rest between her shoulder blades and heard a low, tortured sound rumble from his chest.

“Stacy. We should stop now,” he said in a hoarse voice.

An urge to dominate burned through her, along with a strong tug of pure, unadulterated desire. She leaned forward slightly, until his grip relaxed, then quickly repeated the move.

His muffled exclamation was halfway between a curse and a prayer. Their eyes met in the mirror. His swirled with tension. Beneath her, his entire body vibrated with barely controlled energy. She rotated her hips, grinding against him.

“Stacy,” he gasped her name. “Hold still. I mean it. You don’t know what you’re doing to me.”

She didn’t. Not precisely, anyway. But she knew one thing. They weren’t stopping until she’d done it. In the mirror, her lips curved into a familiar, yet startling expression—Stacy’s wicked grin. She’d never seen it on her own face.

She turned her head, flipping her hair in the process, and looked at him. “The dance isn’t over yet, Trevor.” She took one of his big hands and placed it on her butt, precisely where the barest hint of pink lingered on her pale skin. “Mmm,” she hummed, and rolled her hips, so her flesh slid under his palm. “You feel so good.”

Glancing at the mirror, she watched his eyelids drop like white flags, heard the surrender in his agonized groan, and felt a rush of triumph. A few breathless seconds later, however, he buried his face against the nape of her neck, his hand slid around to her waist, and he jerked her hips down hard—so hard she felt the huge head of his erection straining to get past her tight, fragile threshold. Triumph quickly faded as awareness kicked in.

One little flex of his hand proved beyond a shadow of a doubt which one of them held the power. Not her. She’d toyed with him, forgetting the formidable strength coiled in his rock-hard body. If he chose to unleash it, he could take what she’d teasingly dangled before him—without breaking a sweat.

His fingers tensed on her hip and sent the pressure between her legs to a critical point. Pleasure, low and deep, twisted painfully tight. Something had to give. She feared that something was her. Biting her lip to hold back an anxious, needy sound, she tried to shift away from his restrained intrusion, but his grip held her fast.

“Christ, don’t move,” he growled. Leaning in, he pressed his chest against her back, pushing her forward. Grappling for balance, she gripped his knees, twined her legs around his firmly planted calves, and scooted her hips back hard and fast until the only thing she could feel—the only thing she could think about—was the blunt, unforgiving thrust of his erection against her quivering sex. Just when she feared she’d cry out from a combination of agony and need, Trevor choked out a strangled curse, shuddered, and exhaled a long, rough groan.

Involuntary tremors shivered through her as the pressure between her legs slowly subsided, leaving her overstrained body weak with relief, yet aching with a sharp, unfulfilled need. She closed her eyes, breathed deeply, and told herself to relax. She’d done her job. Yes, doing so meant walking a tightrope between fantasy and reality, and for a moment there, she’d nearly lost her balance. But she’d made it to the end in one piece.

“Are you okay?” Trevor’s lips brushed her neck, lingered long enough to bestow an openmouthed kiss along the tender curve where neck met shoulder. She fought back another shiver, this time because tingling heat radiated along her sensitive nerve endings. There was something seriously wrong with her.

His eyes found hers in the mirror and held.

“I’m fine.” Losing control. Losing Kylie and becoming…I don’t know who. She wanted to stand, get some distance, but the weight of his fathomless gaze paralyzed her.

“You don’t look fine. You look like a lost little girl.” The cynical smile was long gone, replaced by worry and something alarmingly close to compassion. “If I don’t watch it, you’re going to break my heart.”

Even though she knew no real stripper would, she couldn’t keep from bringing her arms up to cover herself. She tore her eyes away from his. He shook his head and sighed. “Come on, what are you hiding? Whatever it is, I promise, telling me is the right thing to do.” He sounded concerned and endlessly patient, then ruined it by saying, “Stacy, talk,” in his firm, no-bullshit cop voice. The command reminded her about the distribution of power again. The imbalance went beyond physical, it encompassed their entire dynamic.

“I have”—she stopped and swallowed the lump in her throat—“I have to go. Right now.”

“Goddammit, Stacy.”

She shook her head and stood, intending to walk the short distance to where her top lay on the floor, put it on, and get the hell out of there, but her legs wobbled and she lost her balance.

Lightning fast, he bolted to his feet and grabbed her arm, steadying her.

The sudden movement caught Benny’s attention. “Back off,” he ordered from the corner. Kylie realized from Benny’s perspective, it looked as if Trevor had stood up and grabbed her.

“I’ll back off when the lady tells me to back off,” Trevor said. “Until then, you back off.”

Before she could find her tongue, Benny got up, walked over, and stood beside Trevor. Apprehension coiled her gut. Trevor towered over her by more than half a foot, and outweighed her by a good hundred pounds of solid, hard-packed muscle, but Benny had him by at least three inches and fifty pounds.

“Now you’re confused about the rules,” the big man went on. “She don’t need to say a word. You back off when I say so. I’m saying so right now.”

Trevor’s eyes never left hers. “What do you say, Stacy? Want me to back off?” He didn’t let go of her arm.

Fear froze her heart in her chest. She knew what he was trying to do—provoke a confrontation with Benny and get kicked out—and she desperately wanted to stop him. Forcing a laugh, she shook her head. “Don’t be stupid.”

She smiled at Benny, and said, “Thanks. I’ve got this handled.”

Benny didn’t return her smile, but he took a step back and looked at his watch. “This dance is over, and we close in fifteen minutes. Finish your business.”

Much to her relief, Trevor released her, but then he reached into his pocket, withdrew a folded bill, and held it out to her. A tip. Bile rose in her throat.

She closed her eyes and looked away. “I don’t want it.”

“Add it to the Stacy Roberts career change fund,” he said softly and she felt his fingers slide the bill along her hip and tuck it into her thong.

“Come on,” said Benny, impatiently, from the door.

A few seconds later the door closed and she stood alone in the room. With unsteady hands she retrieved her bra, and then opened the door. Somehow, she forced her shaking legs to support her while she crossed the nearly empty club and walked down the hall to the dressing room.

Inside, Ariana, Lee Ann and Ginger were removing makeup, combing out hair, and changing into street clothes. She slipped through the chaos to her vanity and stared at her reflection. Pale face, bruised-looking eyes, fever-red lips. Her gaze traveled down, dispassionately, and took in the sight of her breasts overflowing the gauzy white camisole, nipples visible beneath the sheer fabric. Her attention moved lower still, and snagged on the bill tucked into the hip of her thong. Her stomach revolted. Dropping to her knees, she grabbed the little trash can tucked next to her vanity, stuck her head in, and lost her lunch.