I rolled over and stretched, yawning as I awoke. The sunlight filtered through the curtains and I could see the dust motes dancing in the rays. I lay there for a moment watching them and gauged the soreness in my legs which reminded me of last night's fiasco at the club. Sighing, I swung my legs to the side of the bed and sat up.

Time to face another day. I stood, stretched, leaning left and then right, back then forward and worked through the kinks. Checking the full length mirror across the room, I assessed my body. Dark hair highlighted with subtle streaks of honey falling just below the shoulder blades, toned arms, full breasts, tiny waist, flat belly and long toned legs sporting a few dark bruises.

"Not bad, Bella," I thought. "Could be worse."

I turned from the mirror, my inspection complete. Grabbing my black running shorts, jogging bra and my well-worn plain gray tee, I dressed and pulled on my running shoes. Heading to the bathroom, I brushed my teeth, and grabbed the hair brush to pull my hair into a ponytail. I winced as the brush grazed the sore knot on my scalp, another reminder of the night before.

I pulled my hair back and secured it with a holder and examined the dark brown eyes staring back at me in the mirror. With a sigh, I turned from the mirror and headed to the kitchen. A long pull from a cold bottled water in the fridge and I felt awake and ready to go. I grabbed my ipod and house keys and off I went, out the front door. I stopped to lock the door behind me and set off at a light run. It took a few minutes to loosen up and get into the rhythm of my run.

The crisp, clean Chicago air felt good as I sucked it into my lungs. Breathing the cigarette-filled air at the club night after night really made me appreciate the fresh outdoor air, especially in the fall. Rounding the corner at the end of the block from my house, I headed into the park built around a lake and onto the forested trail that threads around it. Fall was in the air and the leaves were just beginning to change colors.

I really dug in and began pushing myself through the run, feeling the burn in my quads and calves as I set a steady punishing pace to the driving rock song blasting from my earbuds. I ran my usual route through the park and around the lake enjoying the scenery. After my typical 45 minutes, I slowed as I closed the loop, heading back home. Walking the last half mile, I calmed my breathing and thought about the night ahead. Sundays were usually slower but still good enough money to warrant working and I could use every cent right now.

I'd been dancing at Jane's Coterie since I turned 21. It is an upscale gentlemen's club, a high-class version of a strip joint basically. The patrons slanted more to the high brow and elite of Chicago and they came to the club knowing that the dancers and management were discreet.

I'd started dancing at the recommendation of a friend who'd told me it was a great way to make fast cash and plenty of it. That sounded great because I was in desperate need of pile of money and to be honest, the job didn't look or sound that hard. After a while, it stopped being JUST about the money for me, I grew to enjoy it and the sense of empowerment it gave me.

Little did I know when I first looked into dancing how hard the girls worked. They earn every penny. While dancing and working a pole might look easy, it was just plain exhausting. I'd never really been a sensual or sexual woman but dancing made me feel powerful, like I really knew and owned my sexuality. I felt more in touch with me.

Saturdays at the club were, of course, the best money-making night. Last Saturday, I had raked in the cash, netting just over three grand stripping pays really well. After Royce took his cut though, it brought my take home to just under $500. Last night, I netted way less because of the drama. I thought back to what had happened.

I'd arrived at the club at 8 last night and checked the board inside the back door for my schedule for the evening. Satisfied with my seven minute appearances every 45 minutes, I headed to the dressing room to begin the beautification process. Although I'd never considered myself a great beauty, I was always astounded at the transformation that makeup could make.

The girls were in various stages of preparation. The regulars were all accounted for: Angela, my best friend, Tanya, Victoria, Lauren, Jessica and a handful of others. Angela, seeing my arrival, waved at me in the mirror. I waved back and headed to the station next to hers.

"Hey, girlie! Are you ready for tonight?" she asked.

"Bring on the cash!" I laughed in reply.

Royce picked that moment to drop into the dressing room to warn the girls that the night would be a crazy one with three different bachelor parties taking place simultaneously. He admonished us to all work the floor and the stage, paste on our best smiles and empty the guys' pockets. Leave it to Royce to bleed the customers dry.

While I loved the money bachelor parties brought in, the guys who couldn't hold their liquor really had a way of making them unpleasant. There was always an idiot or two who tended to get rowdy and the bouncers, Jake, Emmett, and Ben would end up tossing them out the front door. Bachelor parties kept us all on our toes.

I had been working on a new routine which I was debuting tonight, thinking the bachelor parties gave me the perfect opportunity. Angela and I had spent a few minutes shooting the breeze and talking about the night ahead of us while we finished getting dolled up. Her shtick for the night was the princess look, complete with pink feather boa, tiara and sparkling pink pasties. It was a striking look for her as it contrasted nicely with her olive skin and jet black hair.

My new wardrobe and act was based on every man's fantasy of the naughty secretary. Charcoal grey pencil skirt, about halfway in length between my knee and crotch and split all the way up the side to where it snapped, a white long sleeved shirt that snapped up the front for quick removal, red lacy see-thru demi bra and matching g-string and fire engine red 6" platform stilettos completed the wardrobe.

My long wavy chestnut hair was pulled into a French twist and secured with a pencil. Jewelry was merely a red velvet ribbon tied around my throat which exactly matched the shade of my undergarments and my lipstick. Smoky dark eyes finished my makeup. Red-rimmed glasses and a steno pad completed the getup. Classy, but dangerous and sexy. What man wouldn't love that fantasy, right?

Coming up with the idea and act hadn't been difficult but it was outside my comfort zone. I generally stuck with more mainstream blatantly sexy costumes but figured what the hell, time to step outside my box. I didn't want to let my image get stale to the regulars and wanted to impress any newcomers in hopes of turning them into regulars. You quickly learn that every dollar counts and if you can make them adore you, they come back time after time, shoving money at you, which I was happy to take, of course.

Before we knew it, it was show time. Angela took the stage, working her 5'7" slender frame, 6'1" with the clear Lucite heels, to the best of her ability. She worked the pole, crisscrossing the stage and teased the crowd with her boa. While, she was good, she wasn't show-stopping material. I silently cheered her on from behind the red velvet curtain.

I could hear from behind the curtain the cat calls and general chaos the guys were causing typical. Jake, Emmett and Ben would really have their hands full tonight. Angela finished up her set, collected her castoff clothing and money and it was my turn to hit the stage. I high-fived her as she exited the stage.

DJ Eric, Angela's boyfriend cued up his custom mix of my music, S.E.X. by Nickelback, and announced my entrance as the bass line began thumping and the spotlights began twirling.

"And now, for the gentlemen's pleasure, the star of Jane's Coterie, the divine Miss Bellaaaa!"

I took to the stage with a fury, bursting through the curtain in my grand entrance. Working the red heels, I strode to center stage and positioned the pole at my back. I knew how great my legs looked. Between the daily runs, the heels and the slit in the skirt, my legs looked fantastic. No vanity, just a statement of fact.

I closed my eyes, and began swaying side to side, feeling the rhythm. Lowering my eyelids in allure, I dropped the steno pad and began running my hands down the front of my body slowly and sensually bringing the audience to attention. I brought my hands up to my hair and began a slow squat with my knees together and to the side, letting the skirt's split open and reveal my full length of leg. I went as low as I could go and then sprang back to my full height and slowly unsnapped the skirt, letting it fall to the stage. I then turned and kicked it to the back of the stage. After all, I paid for this getup; no way was I going to fling it into the audience.

I pulled the pencil out of my hair freeing the length from it's contained twist and let it fall around my shoulders in sexy disarray. I brought the pencil to my lips, darted my tongue out and slowly bit the eraser end in an erotic tease. I then licked it from the top to the end in one slow fluid motion. I tossed it aside and resumed dancing letting the music be my guide.

Turning and facing stage front again, I scanned the crowd, seeing a few regulars at the tables and spotting the bachelor parties near the stage. They were hard to miss. They were loudly hooting and whistling at me.

I reached and brought my hands over my head, gripped the pole and began sliding downward. Spreading my legs, I dipped almost to the floor before thrusting my pelvis forward and arching upwards. I flipped and inverted my body, wrapping my legs around the pole and spun around, working the pole like a lover. NOW, I had their full attention.

Bringing my feet to the stage, I opened my eyes and connected with my audience while still working the pole, spinning in a tight circle. My hair flew out and around me as I spun and I knew it was shining in the spotlights. I ripped open the first four snaps of my blouse with my free hand but left the shirt on. It was just long enough to cover the back of the g-string but short enough to whet the imagination.

With my shirt partly open, I reached and snatched my glasses off and tossed those onto the stage. Easing open another snap on my shirt, I began working the left edge of the stage making certain to pay attention to the bachelor party seating there, collecting bills as I squatted and writhed in time to the beat. As usual, a few misbehaving patrons tried to get a little frisky and cop too much of a feel. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Jake edging closer in case the situation got out of control and he needed to intervene. I backed out of reach, teasing them and removing myself from the situation. Jake eased back into his position near the velvet curtain.

I made my way to the right coming to the front lip of the stage. There were a few regulars there I acknowledged them with a slight curl of the corner of my mouth and a wink. They gave me thumbs up, approving of the new act. It was encouraging, knowing they were digging it.

Moving back the pole, I made a few more spins letting my hair fly out and spill around me and ended with the splits. As I reached the stage floor, I came into almost an upward facing dog pose on my palms and arched my back, pressing my breasts into prominence. I rocked back onto my heels, spreading my legs and working my hands up and down my inner thighs.

Rising from my crouch with a snap, I finished unsnapping the shirt and slowly let it fall from my shoulders to my elbows. Putting my forefinger in my mouth, I turned and looked over my shoulder with a heavy lidded seductive look while letting the shirt fall the rest of the way off my body. I again did the inverted spin on the pole.

I was cognizant of the ruckus coming from the table at stage right but with an internal sigh, figured it was time to make my way to them. I came off the pole and took one step in their direction. At that moment, I saw a pair of arms and the upper half of a drunk ass throwing himself onstage.

I don't know anyone who's ever tried to maintain their balance in 6" heels while being tackled before, but I'm fairly certain, it isn't possible. He connected with my legs, knocking me backwards on onto the stage, the side of my head connecting with the stripper pole. Shrieks and pandemonium broke out.

I was sprawled flat on my back with the air knocked out of me looking directly into the spotlights above the stage. Although only a split second had passed, I was aware of Emmett and Ben dragging the drunk off the stage and Jake had vaulted onto and across the stage to my side. He picked me up and threw me over his shoulder, hustling me through the velvet curtain and off the stage.

"Bella! Bella, are you all right?" he breathlessly queried.

He gently lowered me onto the couch in the dressing room. Trying to catch my breath, I nodded and winced as I touched where my head had connected with the pole. He frowned, realizing that I hadn't escaped the incident unscathed.

"Did you hit your head?"

"Yeah, I think so," I managed to force out.

Angela and the other dancers who weren't working the floor stood around us staring with their mouths open.

At that instant, the dressing room door cracked open and Ben stuck his head in. "Everything ok?" he said.

"No, Bella hit her head but I don't see any blood anywhere," Jacob replied, turning to look at him.

"Be right back," Ben said. He bolted from the doorway.

Jacob turned his attention back to me. "Bella, are you hurt anywhere else? He caught you pretty good. How are your ankles? Wrists?"

I'd caught my breath back finally and as I flexed my ankles and wrists I answered him back. "No, Jake. I m fine, really. I'll probably have a bruise or two where he hit my shins but nothing else hurts. He just knocked the breath out of me mostly."

"Well, lay back and take it easy while I see what Ben's plan is," Jake said softly to me. I complied, lying back and shutting my eyes.

To the rest of the girls, he said, "Go back to your business. She'll be fine. It's under control."

Angela crept to my side, her eyes wide. "I brought you a robe to put on. You need anything else?"

"No, honestly, I'm fine. It was just a bump on the head." I sat up and put the robe on since I was still in the bra and underwear from my act. I hadn't even gotten to the best part my act the part with the big payoff. I tied the robe and laid my head back, again closing my eyes.

"I just can't believe this happened," I told her.

A soft knock on the door interrupted and Angela got up to answer it. I heard soft murmurs of conversation and then Emmett's voice.

"Bella? There's a doctor here to take a look at you. He was in the audience. Is that ok?"

"Mmmm," I mumbled, getting ready to say again that I was fine when I felt someone in front of me. I opened my eyes to come face to face with the most gorgeous man I'd ever laid eyes on. He was knelt at my feet.

My focus first landed on his eyes which were a bluish-grey smoke color and my gaze drifted to the most kissable lips with the bottom lips a little fuller than the top. His hair was copper in color and had the slightest wave to it, artfully messy in a devil-may-care arrangement. He wore dark washed jeans, plain grey tee shirt and a dark leather jacket. Those beautiful lips turned up into a small smile revealing dimples in his cheeks and then he spoke.

"Hi, Bella? You hit your head. I'm Dr. Cullen. May I take a look at you to make certain you're ok?" he said in a soft husky voice.

Mesmerized, I could only shake my head, nodding yes.

He proceeded to pull a penlight from his pocket and commanded me to follow the light with my eyes as he drew it from left to right. I did as he said, obviously to his satisfaction. "You seem to be focusing all right. May I see the spot where your head is tender?"

Still wordless, I nodded and prodded my skull locating the spot in question. He rose from his knelt position drawing closer to me as he bent his head towards mine. I inhaled his scent, warm, masculine and heady. I must've hit my head fairly hard because I never reacted to men this way. What was my problem? He probed the spot with gentle fingers and released a sigh.

"Ok, no blood but looks like you'll have a good bruise in that spot in the morning. We should probably locate a cold pack and have you hold it in place for a while to keep the swelling down."

Emmett jumped into action headed for the door to fetch ice from the dancer's kitchen. Royce, who'd managed to enter the room quietly at some point, piped up.

"Shit, Bell. What the hell happened? You should've seen that coming. And you, Emmett, where were you? It's your job to prevent this kind of disgrace from happening in my club."

"Sorry, Mr. King. My apologies, Bella. I had my eye on another guy who 'had the look' and missed the joker who managed to get you. I should've been more careful."

"Damn right, you should've been more careful. She's my best earner and the pot's gonna be light tonight thanks to this mess. Get your ass back out front and try to do your job better for the rest of the night, Emmett," Royce sneered.

Emmett turned on his heel and left the room. His expression looked like a thundercloud. He wasn't happy to have let one of the girls get hurt and even less happy about Royce rubbing it in his face in front of the rest of the dancers in the room pretending to ignore us.

"Mike," the doctor said.

We all looked at him quizzically.

Noticing our baffled looks, he clarified. "The joker who knocked you down. His name is Mike. It is no, it was my friend Jasper's bachelor party. He only invited Mike to the party because he's the boss' son even though he's a royal jerk. I apologize for his behavior as well. We should've had the bartender cut him off an hour ago," Dr. Cullen said.

Royce blinked at him a few times before huffing and mumbled something about "paying for that" under his breath.

Dr. Cullen spoke up and said "Bella, is it?"

I nodded.

"Bella should go home and take it easy the rest of the evening. You should alternate with and without the ice on the bump every 15 minutes for a while. I also wouldn't recommend driving until tomorrow because you may in fact have a concussion despite the fact that your eyes seem to be focusing properly," he continued.

"Well, I really don't think it's quite all that drastic, Doc. I mean, come on. She's just fine. Aren't you?" Royce directed the question at me.

"And, where did you get your medical training?" the doctor spat in Royce's direction while keeping his eyes on mine. "I believe I have way more experience in this department than you do. Would you like her to go back out and fall again? That would look just great to your Workers Comp insurer, now wouldn't it?"

"Well, I'm not taking her home. She can take a cab. I can't afford to lose any more money tonight," Royce said flatly. He jerked around to the other girls in the room. "And none of you girls are taking her either. I need your take so get out on the floor and get busy. NOW," he growled. The girls scattered and a few left the room. The rest went to the mirrors to touch up lipstick and check their hair.

"I'd be happy to take you home," Dr. Cullen said sincerely. "I feel bad enough that you're missing work tonight because of Mike's ignorance. Can I make it up to you by driving you home?"


Here's a link to Bella's dance song--- youtube DOT com /watch?v=5SuQHlIhrWs

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