The countdown is on! Only ten weeks to go before DANGEROUS ANGEL releases, the final book in The Earth Angels miniseries published by Carina Press. Woo!
To kick things off, every Tuesday I’m posting a teaser of DANGEROUS ANGEL, and every Thursday I’ll offer a look at the three books leading up to the conclusion of The Earth Angels—NOBODY’S ANGEL, SAVAGE ANGEL, and WOUNDED ANGEL. There might even be a giveaway or two (or more) as I roll along. For instance, I’ll give away a $10 Amazon GC to one lucky commenter on this post and the upcoming Throwback Thursday post. Winner will be announced this Friday. Make sense?
Since it’s my first Teaser Tuesday, I figured I’d start at the top. Here’s the opening scene to DANGEROUS ANGEL. Hope you like it! :)
If it weren’t for the blue neon pulsating through the LED floor tiles and the white-hot spotlights on the catwalk, it would have been as dark as a cave inside The Toy Box. Far removed from the glitzy gentlemen’s clubs in South Beach, The Toy Box had no illusions about itself. With cheap booze and cheaper décor, no one would have dreamed of referring to the unremarkable hole in the wall as a “gentlemen’s club.” It was a strip joint, plain and simple—no frills, no bells or whistles. And it was laughable to label the women up on the stage as exotic dancers. They were strippers, as unapologetic as the word suggested, and they did the same bump-and-grind routine no matter the music. Their expressions matched the moves—vaguely bored, indifferent to the blue-collar clientele who wandered into the bar located in the shadow of Interstate 195 in North Miami. And the smell…
After nearly a week of serving drinks in this pit, Nikita Tesoro was sure she’d never flush the stench out of her nasal passages.
“Gentlemen, there’s no need to be blue.” The broken subwoofer in the overhead speaker made the announcer’s voice as fuzzy as the mold that Nikita suspected clung to every dark nook and cranny in the place. “Not when you’ve got Blu Velvet wanting to dance those blues away.”
Damn, this job had better be worth it. The bad puns alone were enough to kill her.
“Another pitcher of cerveza and limes, four tequilas and a banana daiquiri.” With a short sigh, Nikita plunked her tray on the bar and adjusted the black corset digging into her ribs. She wasn’t a fan of the uniform—white cuffs, a bow tie, black fishnets, a corset with matching French-cut briefs and cheap plastic stilettos that pinched her toes. But it went with the territory, and it was no less than she’d expected from her latest employer.
“A banana daiquiri?” Shouting over the music, the tattoo-covered bartender Nikita had come to know only as Sonny began filling the order, his moves so deft he probably could have done it blindfolded. And maybe comatose. “Did someone lose a bet?”
“Don’t know, don’t care.” With a practiced eye, Nikita surveyed the club’s front room, her attention lingering on a blob of a man settling in at a catwalk seat. “Oh, I almost forgot, Sonny. Banana daiquiri guy wants one of those little umbrellas with fruit stuck on it.”
“Everybody gets what they get, and if they don’t like it they can kiss my freckled ass.” Sonny slammed the tequilas and pitcher of beer on her tray. “How you holding up? Customers treating you right?”
“Oh, you know it, baby. The Toy Box can hardly hold so many Prince Charmings.”
“Translation—your ass is covered in bruises from all the pinching.”
“Do I look like a slow learner? My first night here I figured out how not to turn my back to any of these pigs. I haven’t been tagged since.” She scrunched her toes in the futile hope of making the cheap heels more comfortable. Recently an ultraconservative state senator had waged a campaign to outlaw stilettos and bikinis—something that would never work in Miami—but after spending hours in ankle breakers made out of unforgiving plastic instead of supple leather, she could see his point. There were some shoes that needed to be outlawed.
Then she hauled her full tray up and grimly dived back into the fray. If she played her cards right, she’d be able to kiss the five-inch torture devices goodbye before the after-dinner crowd arrived. The pain in her feet would be oh, so worth it.
Once she’d plotted a course past the tables that would leave her unmolested, Nikita delivered her order and heaved a sigh of relief when the daiquiri drinker didn’t notice his fancy fruit garnish was MIA. Like every other man in the building, his attention was riveted on Blu. Thursday afternoon at The Toy Box wasn’t traditionally a time when it was packed with customers, so the talent up on the catwalk wasn’t the first-string line-up. But Blu did her best, twirling around a pole to the tune of “Doctor, Doctor,” her stethoscope and red-cross pasties flashing in the spotlights. After indulging in a few cautiously friendly conversations with the other woman over the past week, Nikita suspected Blu wasn’t much older than her own twenty-six years, despite the hardness in her eyes that no amount of stage makeup could conceal.
Oddly enough, the patrons didn’t seem to care about what the stripper looked like from the neck up. The blob of a man next to the catwalk was no different, enthusiastically flashing cash for her to pick up. Uninterested in just how that was going to happen, Nikita looked away in time to see Sonny give her the high sign.
“Boss needs to see you.” Preoccupied with slinging one beer after another, Sonny jerked his head in the direction of the back office. “Don’t keep him waiting, he’s in a bad mood.”
“Yeah? Is he wearing crappy plastic shoes too?” Nikita shot another glance over her shoulder, frustration sizzling in her veins. Damn. After spending five frigging days in this stink hole, she was so close to her goal. “Which boss wants to see me?”
“Does it matter? Get going before you’re out on your skinny Cuban ass.”
Flipping Sonny the finger because it was the expected response, she turned her back on his laughter and made a beeline for the office. “The Boss” could have meant the club’s manager Dibby Beirs, or his brother Dodie, the owner. To just about everyone who worked there, the brothers were interchangeable. They were identical twins—middle-aged, stoop-shouldered, swarthy men who probably had to check their height at amusement park rides to see if they were tall enough to get on. The Beirs brothers were discernible only by Dodie’s platinum blond dye-job that clashed with his woolly-worm black eyebrows. Clearly, Dodie and Dibby believed in keeping their personal appearance down to the barest minimum, just as they did with the bar’s décor.
It was the bad dye-job she found behind the cluttered desk as she hovered in the office’s doorway. There were no words strong enough to describe how she loathed going into the windowless cubicle of a room. The smell of stale sex, human funk and beer was so prevalent that just the thought of it made her fantasize about bathing in a vat of hand sanitizer.
“Hey, Nikita.” Dodie shuffled papers in such a frantic way she couldn’t help but wonder if he was being audited. “I need you to pinch-hit for Bambi tonight. Little princess didn’t bother to show up for her evening shift, and Wanda is out with some kind of infection thing. I don’t even want to know.”
That made two of them. “Bambi. Sorry, I’m still learning names here. Is she another waitress? I’m already working the tables with Loli, so—”
“Bambi is talent. As of now, so are you.”
Talent. For the span of a horrified heartbeat, Nikita froze while Dodie’s meaning sank in. Talent. That was The Toy Box’s code word for stripper. As in, to stand in front of a crowd of horny, half-sauced men she didn’t know, and strip.
Money. It really was the root of all evil.
* * *
I’ll introduce DANGEROUS ANGEL’s hero next Tuesday, the one and only Kyle Beaudecker. Be sure to look for it! :)